3 Oct 2009
The leadership, rank and file of social movement Abahlali baseMjondolo have been violently threatened, attacked and forced to leave the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban.
According to a statement released by the social movement, the attacks started on Saturday night 26 September 2009 when "a group of about 40 men heavily armed with guns, bush knives and even a sword attacked the KRDC (Kennedy Road Development Committee) near the Abahlali baseMjondolo office in the Kennedy Road settlement. The movement was holding an all night camp for the Youth League...The men who attacked were shouting: 'The AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the AmaZulu'.”
Four people have lost their lives as a result of these attacks.
Abahlali allege police complicity in the attacks, they say, "Sydenham police were called but they did not come. They said that they had no vans but they didn't radio their vans to come. This has led some people to conclude that this was a carefully planned attack on the movement and that the police knew in advance that it had been planned and stayed away on purpose."
While the attacks have been, in the main, portrayed as "ethnic violence," it appears that there are other sinister forces at play. The social movement is subject to ongoing harassment from local ANC leaders because of its non-partisan, non-ethnic, progressive and participatory nature.
In a statement released a day after the attack was launched, Abahlali state:
"There are now senior ANC leaders in the Kennedy Road Community Hall. In their presence the homes of the elected Kennedy Road leadership continue to be demolished and burnt by the same small group of well armed people who have been carrying out attacks with impunity for 23 straight hours. The police are currently on the scene and are doing nothing to stop the destruction."
President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, S'bu Zikode's house was also demolished and his goods stolen. He personally requested support from the police but received none.
Human rights groups, activists, academics and religious leaders, have condemned the attacks on Abahlali.
Bishop Rubin Phillip, Anglican Bishop of Natal and chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council said, "I was torn with anguish when I first heard of the unspeakable brutality that has raged down on to the Kennedy Road shack settlement. In recent years I have spent many hours in the Kennedy Road settlement. I've attended meetings, memorials, mass ecumenical prayers and marches. I have had the honour of meeting some truly remarkable people in the settlement and the work of Abahlali baseMjondolo has always nurtured my faith in the power and dignity of ordinary people."
The attacks on Abahlali baseMjondolo have also been condemned by international groups and activists.
The London Coalition Against Poverty called for a picket in protest against the violent attacks on Abahlali outside South Africa House in Trafalgar Square in London, on 30th September at 6pm.