STATEMENT BY BISHOP MICHAEL VORSTER
NATAL COASTAL DISTRICT – METHODIST CHURCH OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
In September 2009, a violent attack took place in the informal settlement known as Kennedy Road in Durban, wherein two people died. A group of young men from the shackdwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, were arrested, detained and eventually charged with several crimes, including murder. After many months and numerous delays two were released, leaving twelve who became known as the “Kennedy 12” and who were to face a long and protracted legal process which was fraught with suspicion and allegations of political interference.
Today we celebrate a victory as all twelve men were acquitted of all charges against them and released in the Durban Magistrates Court. We celebrate as these fathers, brothers and sons are able to finally reunite with their families and friends whose pain and suffering we can only imagine. This is a victory for the truth and a victory for the poor – indeed a wonderful gift on the birthday of Nelson Mandela!
Notwithstanding the joy we experience and share today, questions still remain unanswered; while our confidence in the judicial process is once again vindicated, we must ask why the process took so long – amounting eventually to a lengthy detention without trial for some of the accused. We must ask questions about the influence which was brought to bear on witnesses and the judiciary. We will need to ask the question – who was truly responsible for the attack and why?
This is indeed a victory – but the struggle of the poor and the homeless continues. Theirs is a daily struggle for decent housing and the provision of basic services to their communities, such as water, sanitation and electricity. We cannot ignore the huge scale of corruption in our country which has led to the enrichment of a few and continues to exacerbate the poverty of millions.
As a people of faith we are united in our commitment to stand in solidarity with all who struggle – and we remain committed to the truth – the truth which sets all people free. We wish the Kennedy 12 and their families well as we continue to pray for them, the community and for poor and homeless people everywhere.
Bishop Michael Vorster
18 July 2011