23 December 2010
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
ANC Intimidates Witness X, More Intimidation and More Killing in Kennedy Road
The attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Kennedy Road settlement in September last year was followed by serious intimidation against the movement in the settlement. People were forced to denounce the movement, any support for the movement put people at serious risk and organising in the settlement had to go underground. Homes continued to be destroyed until July this year and people had to be able to show ANC cards to access food vouchers for senior citizens and social relief as well as the building materials that, after the struggle of our movement, are now made available to people after shack fires. Building material was even given to ANC members whose shacks hadn’t burnt. Death threats were made against numerous people including AbM leaders not living in Kennedy Road. These death threats were often issued in public, such as at the court appearances for the Kennedy 12 (who were at first the Kennedy 13).
After the attack Willies Mchunu, who told the KwaZulu-Natal parliament that ‘a resolution has been taken to disband Abahlali’, imposed an unelected ANC controlled Community Policing Forum (CPF) on the settlement. That CPF never met and never functioned. The settlement was instead run by an unelected informal network of ANC supporters closely supported by the Branch Executive Committee (BEC) of the Ward 25 ANC under the leadership of the notoriously authoritarian and corrupt Jackson Gumede. This informal network was also supported by the Ward Councillor,Yakoob Baig, senior ANC leaders, such as Dora Dlamini, an MP in the provincial parliament, and, at times, the local police. Zibuyile Ngcobo and Zandile Mdletshe, who took a leading role in the attack in September last year (including the destruction and looting of homes), have been the leading figures in this ANC network that seized control of the settlement after the attack. They both remain in possession of goods, like furniture and clothes, looted in the attacks.
Their power came from their ability to exercise violence and to destroy people’s homes and loot their property with the impunity that comes from state backing (a backing that included tacit police support for the ongoing destruction of homes); the immediate state opposition to any spontaneous attempts at organising self defence; and the access to the money, tenders, jobs and developmental support that are channelled through the local party structures.
AbM continued to organise underground in the settlement despite the risks and, by May this year, a Kennedy Road branch began to organise openly under the courageous leadership of Nozuko Hulushe. On the 7th of February this year Nozuko was violently attacked by Zibuyile Ngcobo. Her face was smashed with a brick and her hair was pulled out.
There have always been some officers in the Sydenham Police Station that have tried to do their jobs fairly and without political interference. When the whole station is under pressure from the ANC, or when there is heavy political pressure on a certain case, it becomes very hard for any police officer there to do their work fairly. But when that pressure recedes some officers are able to do their work fairly.
Nozuko succeeded to open a case against Zibuyile Ngcobo. After Ngcobo was arrested Ward Councilor Yakoob Baig rushed to bail her out and instructed the police to drop the charges. ANC MPL Dora Dlamini came to Kennedy Road and tried to force Nozuko to drop the charges. But Nozuko stood firm and the police officer handling the case stood firm and the case went ahead. There was the usual intimidation from the ANC in the court and after Lindiwe Mlangeni repeatedly swore at and threatened Nozuko in the court the prosecutor told Nozuko to open a case against Mlangeni. The case was opened and Mlangeni was arrested. Yakoob Baig bailed her out too. We don’t know where that case is now. On the 28th of October this year Zibuyile Ngcobo was found guilty of assault and defeating the ends of justice. She was given a five year suspended sentence and warned to never interfere with Nozuko or to fight with anyone in Kennedy Road.
She continues to be an ANC activist and tenderpreneur in Kennedy Road and it is believed by some that she is also selling the drug wonga.
Last month Jackson Gumede was arrested on a charge of stealing building material provided after the fires in the Lacey Road and Kennedy Road settlements. He was also bailed out by Yakoob Baig. That case is still pending.
We note that we are constantly presented as criminals and thugs by the ANC and their allies. During five years of mass struggle our movement has put thousands of people on the streets, organised numerous campaigns, had to deal with armed authoritarianism from landlords, red ants, the police and party structures. We have had to deal with fires, serious state repression and incredible lies about us. We have active branches in 64 shack settlements in this country (and we will launch two new branches in January), more than 10 000 paid members and, we estimate, more than 25 000 active supporters all organised in a bottom up system where members direct branches and branches direct the movement. The ANC has constantly slandered us and constantly misused the police to beat and harass us. But despite all the pressure that has been placed on the police to make arrests, and despite the fact that more than a hundred of our comrades have had to stand in the dock on criminal charges since 2005, only one AbM member has ever been convicted after an arrest. In May 2008 Philani Zungu, the former Deputy President of the movement who has a civil case pending against the Sydenham Police after he and S’bu Zikode were tortured in the Sydenham Police station in September 2006, pled guilty to a charge of (carefully and safely) connecting his settlement, Pemary Ridge, to electricity. He told the court that his action should be assessed on the basis of the fact that the settlement has never burnt and that there has never been an electrical accident there since it was connected. Zungu’s action was a social action which should be supported by any right thinking person.
However an ANC leader has now been convicted of assaulting one of our leaders. Ngcobo’s action was deeply anti-social and should be opposed by all right thinking people.
AbM continues to organise openly in Kennedy Road. It is still not safe to wear a red T-shirt in the settlement but we are forcing this freedom by refusing to be intimidated. The movement salutes all AbM members in Kennedy Road and wishes to pay special tribute to the courage of Nozuko Hulushe.
A Democratic Break Through in Kennedy Road
In October this year there was a major democratic break through in Kennedy Road. For the first time since the attack and the violent imposition of ANC rule in the settlement an election was held in the settlement. Candidates stood in their individual capacities and no one ran as an ANC or AbM candidate. This was done in order to ensure that this important step towards the full democratisation of the settlement could be taken safely. The election went safely, with mass support, and a new Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) was elected. None of the ANC leaders are on this committee and most of its members were AbM activists before the attack. We welcome the fact that, for the first time since the armed and state backed removal of AbM from the settlement and the imposition of unelected ANC rule, there has been an election in the settlement and that it is now under democratic rule. We also welcome the fact that while the ANC network that ran the settlement are all Zulu people the new elected KRDC is all mixed up – there are amaZulu, amaXhosa, aMamPondo and moSotho members. Everyone who lives in the settlement is welcome to vote for this committee and to serve on this committee. Given that the attack that was mobilised against us was mobilised on an ethnic basis this is also a very important break through.
Abahlali has not yet returned to the settlement but two important principles of Abahlalism – democracy and a non-ethnic politics – have been reinstated in the settlement. We will have to see if the ANC allows this committee to do its work safely and if the state accepts it as the legitimate representatives of the community or if it continues to take the unelected ANC network as the only legitimate structure. We can already see that the ANC continues to inform the media that Zandile Mdletshe is the leader of the settlement while there is a democratic elected committee there.
The new KRDC has made some progress. There is still no creche and no organised collective care for people living with HIV/AIDS. But the grass has been cut, the hall is being looked after and the Municipality has been approached to do something about the incredible amount of rubbish that has accumulated in the settlement since the attack. It was agreed that the settlement will be cleaned for a week in December and it was decided by the new KRDC that people will be elected to the cleaning jobs (the old KRDC used a lottery system to allocate jobs). However Jackson Gumede, chairperson of the BEC of the ANC in the ward, intervened and said that he has his own list of people that must get these jobs. This is exactly how the attack on our movement began last year – over a dispute as to whether a community or the ANC should control development. The new KRDC will face a real challenge to deal with this.
The new KRDC also faces another serious challenge. As soon as there was an elected committee that committee was given the same demand as the old KRDC – to do something about crime and about the shebeens. Many people have been killed by criminals in Kennedy Road since the attack. These murders have often had an ethnic aspect and are often linked to the shebeens. The new KRDC has, under pressure from below, taken exactly the same decision as the old KRDC which is that shebeens must close at 10:00 p.m. In 2009 this decision led some shebeen owners to ally with the ANC mob in the attack on our movement. It also gave the ANC something to use against our movement – they claimed that regulating the opening hours of the shebeens was some sort of oppression of the community. This is just nonsense. General Bheki Cele is on TV all the time saying that shebeens must regulated. The real issue here is not shebeens. It is that the ANC was so desperate to attack our movement that they were willing to make alliances with anybody, including shebeen owners, criminals and those people that believe that now is the time for the Zulus.
S’bu Zikode recently meet with Raul Zibechi who is a comrade from Latin America. Raul explained how in Latin America the regimes there have encouraged criminals and drugs as a way to divide communities and to weaken their mobilisation. We note that here in Durban the ANC is willing to encourage alcohol abuse and criminality to try and undermine our movement. Everywhere in the world the unity of a poor community is a threat to the state and the state will do what it can to break that unity. Unregulated alcohol use, drugs, crime and ethnic politics are all ways to break the unity of the poor. The state is made powerful and the poor are made weak when we are made to fight each other. The problem of drugs is new in our communities but in the last two years the use of sugars and rocks (crack cocaine) has exploded. One of our best young activists is currently, with strong support from the movement, in the middle of the fear and pain that comes with withdrawal from these drugs. We will support him with the same commitment that we bring to supporting a comrade in jail or a comrade who is losing a family member to AIDS. No one in this movement must ever have to walk through a long night of suffering alone. We make no distinction between this kind of support and our political work. Getting a young man off rocks or caring for a young women dying of AIDS is as political as boycotting an election or marching to symbolically bury a councillor or burn the mayor’s house.
The new KRDC are also taking action against crime. This is in response to a popular demand that they cannot ignore. They are trying to organise to force, as had been achieved before, the police to respond to crime in the settlement in a way that treats shack dwellers as citizens and not as if we are all criminals. They are also catching criminals where possible and then calling the police to come and fetch them. They are being extremely careful to make sure that no one ever hits any one suspected of criminal acts even when the provocation is extreme. They are aware of the dangers of this and they are aware that when a state is against a community organisation or movement any attempt by members of that organisation or movement to administer justice places it at real risk. It is the easiest thing in the world for the police to get a criminal to testify against a movement in exchange for being released after committing a serious crime.
The new KRDC is also in regular discussion with the KRDC in exile and with Abahlali baseMjondolo about various matters including the return of the people exiled from the settlement in September 2009. The question of safety both to the exiles and the new KRDC is high in everyone’s minds. But there is confidence that once the trial of the Kennedy 12 is over, and the lies of the ANC stand exposed before the world, that a full return will become possible. The movement has made it clear that it is not willing to accept any partial return. Either everyone will return or no one will return. There can be no sacrificing of certain individuals or groups.
The ANC is losing control of Kennedy Road. The new democratically elected committee while independent from all political parties and organisations is, under democratic pressure, implementing the same policies as the old AbM affiliated KRDC.
The ANC is also losing in court.
In recent days they have tried to take back the ground that they have lost in the community and in the court with more violence.
The Intimidation of Nozuko Hulushe
Three weeks ago Nozuko Hulushe was accosted by Mduduzi ‘George’ Cele, a cousin of Zibuyile Ngcobo. He was armed with a gun and threatened to shoot her. He didn’t make an attempt to shoot her but he did hit her against the door. He said that she would be dead within two weeks.
The AbM branch in Kennedy Road are sure that Cele is wanted by the police for the recent killings at the pharmacy near the Seafood shop in Quarry Road in Clare Estate. When he is in Kennedy Road he stays with Zibuyile Ngcobo.
On Friday last week Nozuko Hulushe left her house at 7 in the morning to take her rubbish out. Zibuyile Ngcobo was sitting outside her house drinking alcohol. She started swearing at Nozuko telling her that ‘your days are numbered’ and that the ‘police won’t keep you safe’. She said to Nozuko that ‘you need to be killed with a gun’ and that ‘we will destroy your head with a gun’.
At 12:30 Nozuko left her house again to go to the shop. She was accosted by Ngcobo once more and the threats were repeated. This time Ngcobo was sober.
Because Ngcobo was sober when the threats were made, because of the well known criminality and violence of the people she is associated with, and because of the (at times but not complete) state guaranteed impunity with which she has been able to engage in violence and intimidation Nozuko took these threats seriously.
She went to the C.R. Swart police station to request a peace order but they told her that she must open a case. She then went to the Sydenham police station. The police officers consulted with Ngcobo’s boyfriend and then informed Nozuko that the wouldn’t open a case and that she must reconcile with Ngcobo. Nozuko was unwilling to reconcile with a person with a history of violence (usually state sanctioned) and who had, that morning, threatened to kill her.
However on Monday this week (20 December) Nozuku succeeded to open a case against Ncgobo. The case number is 415/12/2010. As a movement we are requesting that human rights organisations monitor the investigation of this case.
Nozuko has returned to her home in the settlement but she is remaining locked inside and does not feel safe in the settlement. It is very difficult for her children to spend Christmans locked inside their home.
For some time a grey 4×4 vehicle with tinted windows has often parked outside Nozuko’s home after dark. On occasion Zibuyile Ngcobo and Zandile Mdletshe have been seen entering this vehicle. The driver, who cannot be seen clearly through the tinted windows and who always wears sunglasses, has taken photographs of Nozuku. This vehicle has also been close to AbM gatherings outside the court appearances of the Kennedy 12. It was outside Nuzuko’s house last night and the day before yesterday.
The Intimidation of Witness X
Witness X was initially supposed to be a witness for the prosecution in the case against the Kennedy 12. Before the trial she was intimidated by the local ANC and the investigating officer, Officer Naidoo, who kicked in her door early in the mornings, threatened her with arrest if she refused to testify, told her that if she refused to testify Xolani, another state witness, would call a meeting to have her evicted from the settlement and promised to give her money after the case if she did testify. Officer Naidoo stopped intimidating Witness X and other state witnesses after the prosecutor warned him.
After Witness X refused to testify for the prosecution the magistrate asked her to be a court witness and she testified in camera. To everyone’s shock her name was reported in the media resulting in the judge referring the newspaper report to the Press Ombudsman.
Witness X was, our lawyers our certain, the only credible witness to testify during the first week of the trial of the Kennedy 12. She testified that she had not witnessed any of the 12 commit any crime but that she had been pressured to give false evidence.
Last week, on Sunday, Zandile Mdletshe’s brothers accosted Witness X, told her that by testifying she had sold their sister to ‘Wanya Totsi’ (this is how the local ANC refer to the old KRDC and AbM and, now, to all Pondo people).
Later Xolani, a state witness, approached Nozuko Hulushe and told her that because Witness X had testified on her own and not for the prosecution Witness X would now have to be removed from the settlement. The ANC mob destroyed more than 30 homes in September last year and have destroyed quite a few more since then, with the last one (the home of Anton Zamisa) being destroyed in July this year. This destruction of people’s homes has been carried on with full state sanction and this threat to destroy the home of Witness X must be taken seriously. Xolani also told Nuzuko that ‘We won’t get along if the situation continues like this’ which she took to be a direct threat against her in direct response to the fact that a state witnesses had declined to testify for the state.
On Friday (17 December) Witness X was watching Generations when three nephews of Thembi Nxumalo, an ANC leader in Kennedy Road and a state witness in the case of the Kennedy 12, burst into her home. Two of them had knives and one had a sharpened object (like an umbrella pin or a bicycle spoke). They said that she had betrayed them by testifying and they threatened to kill her. She grabbed a bottle, broke it and used it to chase them out of her home. They came back later that night with Thembi Nxumalo. Witness X ran out of her home to ask someone to call the police. Her neighbours were up although it was late as they own a shebeen. They saw what was happening and intervened to protect Witness X from Nxumalo and her nephews.
One motive for the threats against Witness X is revenge. But another is to send a clear message to her not to testify again if she is called. Another motive is to make it clear to all state witnesses that it is not safe for them to decide, as Witness X did, to tell the truth about how the state’s case has been fabricated. Already the number of state witnesses has fallen from 40 to 9 and some people who are still supposed to testify are openly telling others in the community that, now that the ANC are losing control of the settlement, they are no longer prepared to lie for them in court.
Two More Murders in Kennedy Road this Weekend
Since the attack on AbM in September last year there have been numerous killings in the settlement. These are mostly criminal murders but they often have an ethnic dimension and they are also directly linked to the end of the attempt to regulate shebeens, the end of the relationship that had been built between the old KRDC and the police and the end of community policing efforts. Two more people were killed this weekend.
One of them, a man named Xolani, was a imPondo man who was robbed and stabbed in an ethnically motivated attack. It is believed by our members in the settlement that a man also named Xolani, the same state witness that threatened to destroy Witness X’s home, was involved in the killing. For these people anyone speaking isiXhosa is called ‘Wanya Totsi’. The man who was killed had no relation to any AbM linked structure. As a movement we are requesting that the human rights organisations pressure the police and the state to investigate, fairly and fully, this killing and all other killings that have happened in the settlement since the attack on our movement last year.
Crime remains very high in the settlement, ethnic tensions remain a serious problem, the police continue to be disinterested in crime committed against people in the settlement and, while some steps are now being taken, the community is not yet sufficiently well organised to deal with this problem.
No Christmas in the Shacks
In the past we have always said that there is no Christmas in the shacks due to the fires and due to the fact that, once a community is organised, the state always chooses the Christmas period to evict because many people are away, lawyer’s officers are closed and so on. This is why every year we have to make sure that some of our best activists remain at home and on high alert during the Christmas period.
We are sure that this new wave of repression is coming during Christmas for the same reasons that evictions usually come at Christmas. However we remain organised during this period and our comrades working in the law, in the human rights organisations and elsewhere remain committed and ready to act.
As a result of the current climate of intimidation in Kennedy Road we are not giving the names of anyone there as contact people. However our office can answer any questions with regard to this statement. Our number is 031 – 304 6420.