AbM: Death threats, rape, corruption and war on democracy in eShowe

18 08 2009

Tuesday, 18 August 2009
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

Abahlali Leaders Narrowly Escape Assassination; Councillor Warlords Violently Disrupt Branch Launch in Tin Town, eShowe; Abahlali Members in Exile; Sex for Houses Corruption Allegations at Sunnydale Housing Project

Breaking News: Warlords return to Tin Town today, 17 August, with weapons, searching for two exiled Abahlali members

A delegation of Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders from Durban narrowly escaped assassination this Sunday by local councillor warlords in Tin Town, Dinizulu township, eShowe.

Abahlali have been receiving calls daily from Tin Town shack-dwellers, excluded from an uMlalazi municipality housing project called Sunnydale, constructed by Umpheme Development Ptd (Ltd). Tin Town shack-dwellers are now undergoing mass forced eviction and being left homeless. Evictions have been backed with threats by Ward 13 councillor warlords. These threats have included threats of necklacing, razing people’s homes, suffocation and starvation in the boot of cars.

A number of women allege that the councillor has demanded sex in exchange for houses in the Sunnydale Housing Project. Those on good terms with the councillor have been first on the allocation list. It also is alleged that the councillor is inciting shacklords, living outside Tin Town, to eject renting shack-dwellers in exchange for the shacklords been given houses at the Sunnydale Project.

On Sunday Abahlali baseMjondolo launched a new branch in the Tin Town settlement where more than 200 people have joined the movement. The launch of the new branch started with a prayer in an open field. But a warlord arrived in a car and without warning through the crowd of 200 people, at about 120kms/hr. The car was a white and cream Venture, registration number NES12624. People leapt from its path, scattering in terror.

The warlord then jumped from the car, screaming, “Who organized this meeting? These are my people! This is my territory!” He manhandled a Tin Town resident, who answered, “We are here to learn about our rights as shack-dwellers.” Two more cars of warlords suddenly appeared, blocking the single exit and the Durban delegation’s vehicle.

The Durban delegation, including Abahlali President S’bu Zikode and his 4-year-old child, were held hostage. The warlords debated whether to kill the delegation of 10 men, women and children, or to beat them bloody. The warlords assaulted a contributor from the community radio station Vibe FM, who is a member of Abahlali and who was acting as an MC for the launch.

The warlords are reportedly cronies of councillor Reggie Ngema, Ward 13, uMlalazi municipality. Among the seven warlords issuing threats at the scene, one is the Community Liaison Officer (CLO) for Ward 13 named Xolani Biyela, and another is a local taxi boss known as Ntuthuko Dludla.

After the National Administrator for Abahlali managed to, in secret, call the police, the warlords ordered the Durban delegation to go, saying: “never return, or you will be killed.” The delegation left Tin Town, while two unmarked cars followed closely behind. The delegation went to the eShowe police station to lay a complaint.

Two members of Abahlali baseShowe, identified by the warlords as coordinators of the launch, were forced to flee Tin Town. They are now in exile, staying at an undisclosed location. While the Durban delegation waited in an eShowe restaurant to take the two members to safety, councillor Ngema’s car pulled into the parking lot.

Abahlali have not seen a situation like this since the 80s, not in the 15 years since democracy.

Apartheid was a time when people lived in fear of the authorities. Today, people are no longer oppressed. They must not live in fear, whether of traditional authorities, councillors, or any other leaders or their local thugs.

Apartheid was a time when people went into exile. Today, people are no longer oppressed. They must not have to flee in exile for fear of their lives. This exile in eShowe is the second exile.

Apartheid was a time when people were assassinated. Today, people are no longer oppressed. They must not face politically motivated murder, threats of murder, or violence.

The people of Tin Town are living in fear, and are in fear to talk. The launch of Abahlali baseShowe was an attempt to come out of the silence they have lived for a very long time. People need to come out of this silence. In a democratic society, it is unacceptable that people cannot have political gatherings, talk and associate with each other.

Abahlali do not want to believe that some government spheres ignore their call to protect their citizens against violations of human rights and dignity. We therefore ask government officials, especially the MEC for Human Settlements, to honour the proposed invitation for a consultative meeting with Abahlali, so that we can expose all evil activities that hinder development in our communities. The situation in eShowe looks calm, but is very volatile.

Abahlali stand firm that this is a democratic country, a free country, and that everyone has a right to associate and hold meetings.

All people, whether they live in a shack or a house, have a right to freely speak and express themselves.

Contact:

Zodwa, National Administrator for Abahlali 082 830 2707
Mnikelo, Abahlali PRO 079 745 0653
Abahlali National Head Office 031 269 1822

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