Recent reports have emerged about violent attacks in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban. Members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (or urban shack-dwellers movement) were pulled from their homes, violently attacked and some of them were murdered. It sounds like somebody huffed and puffed and tried to blow this movement down. Why? But more importantly, why haven’t we heard more about it?
So if you’re not sure about the story, here it is. On September 27 armed attackers launched an attack on the leadership of the Abahlali baseMjondolo. The police were called to intervene, but did not arrive, citing lack of vans and radios. The violence lasted 24 hours. During this time many people were killed and many more were injured and left homeless.
These attacks were brutal, and structured. They focused on the leadership of the Abahlali baseMjondolo and their loved ones. With a glaringly obvious agenda, the leadership of this movement were then imprisoned for supposedly launching the attacks that they had been victims of (even if they were not at the scene of the crime). The leadership of the Kennedy Road Development Committee were imprisoned without explanation, and without justice. The violence that they used seems only to have been used in self-defence to protect their own lives.
The Abahlali baseMjondolo movement has struggled to provide people living in shacks with respect and dignity and to provide them with better access to democracy. Until that night it had seemed that their pleas for better living conditions had fallen on deaf ears — now it seems that those who were listening had grown tired, and wanted the problem to disappear.
The question now is who those listeners were? Many of the survivors of the violence claim that they were labelled Cope supporters and this is why they were victims. They cite that before this unexpected act, Kennedy Road had begun to be the home of an increasing level of emphasis on Zulu culture and ANC alignment and that all those who were not in support of this were verbally challenged and sometimes threatened. Many civil-society groups have supported this evidence.
But why have we heard so little about this brutal attack on some of society’s most vulnerable members? Is it because common opinion is true — that the ANC led the attack and so negative press has been avoided? Like the TAC’s statement said:
If the allegations being made are true, they are extremely serious. Violence was often used under the apartheid government to secure political advantage in KwaZulu-Natal. These methods should be confined to our past.
They called for the president to meet with the leaders in Kennedy Road and make a statement about it. As yet, we have heard nothing.
If it was ANC members in the area performing a violent example of xenophobia, why has nothing been said? And if it wasn’t, then why have there not been substantial denials on the part of the ANC leadership in that province and offers to assist the residents of Kennedy Road?
It all seems a bit sinister really.