Opinion: Pogrom murders in the Durban area

2 10 2009

Paul Trewhela says inquiry needed into attack on isiXhosa speakers

Paul Trewhela – Politicsweb
01 October 2009

A fascistic and xenophobic attack was made over two nights this week against a peaceful informal settlement in the Durban area, apparently in the name of the African National Congress, resulting in the murder of at least two settlement dwellers. The police appear to have made a principle of their absence, despite appeals for help. A dominant motive of the attackers appears to be ethnic hatred of isiXhosa-speakers.If this interpretation is proved correct, the assault on 27 and 28 September on the Kennedy Road informal settlement – in which a peaceable grouping, AbaHalali baseMjondolo, has won the allegiance of many shack dwellers – would mark the first episode of organised political murder in South Africa under a distinct political flag since the ending of apartheid. If this is proved to have been the case, it would represent the most flagrant sign of political retrogression in the state since its foundation in 1994, and a reversion to the mores of the apartheid era.

The Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) – a primary target of the attackers – has reported that two shack-dwellers, Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Ndumiso Mnguni, were killed when the pogrom mob ordered all Xhosa-speakers to leave the settlement.

If proven correct, as seems to be the case, this attack would represent a deliberate breach of the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. It would signify also a contravention of the historic spirit of the entire spread of the liberation movement in South Africa, across all political divisions, since the founding of the Native National Congress (the parent of the ANC) in 1912, and above all of the principles of its isiZulu-speaking founders, John Langalibalele Dube and Pixley ka Izaka Seme.

The atrocities have been condemned by the Anglican bishop of Kwa-Zulu Natal and chairman of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council, Bishop Rubin Philip, who knows the Kennedy Road settlement very well.

Bishop Philip has stated: ‘The militia that have driven the Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders and hundreds of families out of the settlement is a profound disgrace to our democracy. The fact that the police have systematically failed to act against this militia while instead arresting the victims of their violence and destruction is cause for the gravest concern. There are credible claims that this milita has acted with the support of the local ANC structures. This, also, is cause for the most profound concern.’

The president of AbaHalali baseMjondolo, Sibusiso Innocent Zikode – who fled his home before it was trashed by the pogromists, and who describes himself  as ‘consequently, a political refugee’), has stated: ‘We are calling for close and careful scrutiny into the nature of democracy in South Africa’.

Readers can make their own assessment of events by following the video record of the sequence of attacks on YouTube here and at the website of Abahlali baseMjondolo here .

There is an issue here not only of a campaign of organised political assassination and terror, reminiscent of the worst of the 1980s and early 1990s, but of apparent political collusion with the pogrom mob on the part of the political and administrative authorities in KwaZulu-Natal.

The issue is so grave that it calls for an independent judicial inquiry, which is, and is seen to be, impartial.

It calls for the true assailants to be arrested and brought to justice.

It calls also for direct and forceful repudiation of this specific attack and of pogrom politics in general by President Jacob Zuma, with his personal intervention in the area of Durban/eThekwini, and at Kennedy Road in particular.

Nothing else can give assurance to the citizens in Kennedy Road, hundreds of whom have fled their homes. And nothing else will prevent the descent of South Africa into a downward spiral of racist and ethnic violence, with the apparent connivance of the government and the state.

* Paul Trewhela is the author of Inside Quatro: Uncovering the exile history of the ANC and SWAPO, which will be published by Jacana Media later this year.

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