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Abahlali baseMjondolo: Factual Errors in Mail & Guardian Article

South Africa: Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement of Monday, 5 November 2018.

Submitted to Enough is Enough.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

As everybody knows our movement has been subject to sustained violence, including assassinations by the izinkabi and murders by the police, municipal security and the Anti-land Invasion Unit. On 8 October we marched, in our thousands, against political violence.

We are not the only organisation that is subject to political violence in KwaZulu-Natal. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the South African Communist Party and various political parties, including the ruling party have all had their members assassinated. Most of the people who have been killed are ANC leaders who have been killed on the orders of other ANC leaders.

On 18 October S’bu Maphumulo the ANC councillor for Ward 88 in Umlazi was assassinated. The next day the African News Agency reported that:

Maphumulo made local headlines last year when shack-dweller group Abahlali baseMjondolo accused him of intimidating one of its Silver City, uMlazi, branch leaders at a community meeting.

The group claimed Maphumulo stormed the meeting with police officers and “hitmen”.

Speaking to ANA on Friday after the news of Maphumulo’s murder, Abahlali president S’bu Zikode said: “He was one of the councillors that intimidated Abahlali leaders in our Silver City branch in Umlazi.

“We had opened an intimidation case against him and the police would not arrest him. He would come into Abahlali meetings with his armed men and intimidate and disturb our meetings. May his soul rest in peace.

“Having said that, I do want to say, our condolences to Maphumulo’s family and children. No human being deserves this kind of brutality. That is why we came out in our thousands last week to say killing of people must come to an end. May his soul rest in peace.”

This report accurately reflects our experience and views.

This weekend we were disturbed to read the article on the murder of Maphumalo in the Mail & Guardian titled ‘Unsolved KZN hits spread fear’. The article contains some serious errors that could put our members at significant risk.

There was a march on the Councillor on the day that he was assassinated and it has been claimed that during that march threats were made to burn down the Councillor’s house. The article states that ‘Activists from the civic movement Abahlali baseMjondolo in the ward, who were involved in that protest march, were detained and questioned by the police in the day following.” Later on in the article the protest is referred to as ‘an Abahlali march’. The article is accompanied by a photograph of our march against assassinations on 8 October. However the caption makes it seem like the photograph is of the march on the Councillor on 18 October. That caption has now been corrected online but readers of the print copy will still have the wrong impression and think that the photograph is of an Abahlali march on the Councillor.

The march on the Councillor was not an Abahlali baseMjondolo march. It was organised by concerned residents in ward 88 and our movement played no role in the organisation of the march, and didn’t mobilise our members to support the march. The three activists who were arrested after the assassination – Bheki Buthelezi, Sizwe Shibe and Sithembile Doncabe – are not Abahlali baseMjondolo members. We do know Bheki Buthelezi and Sizwe Shibe, who is known as Rasta. They are well known activists in Durban, and have been supportive of our movement from time to time, but have never taken membership of our movement. Sizwe is a member of a separate organisation, the United Front, and Bheki has worked with various organisations, including the United Front.

It is disappointing to us that the Mail & Guardian has printed a factually incorrect report without contacting us to ensure the accuracy of the information that they have published. We understand that there was no intention to misrepresent the facts but rumours and false information can easily cost lives in KwaZulu-Natal where the politic of blood has become an everyday bread.

We have always called on the police to investigate and bring to book all those who are behind the killings of activists and politicians. We continue to do so. We cannot live under these conditions where political killing has become a normal thing.

We condemn any form of killing whether it is politically motivated or not. Our condemnation of political killings includes all the politicians who have been killed, including, of course, Cllr S’bu Maphumulo.

While we understand that there was no bad intention with this article we would like to ask the media to take greater care with their reporting, and to contact us before accepting as true what other people say about us. In this province journalistic errors could have very serious consequences.


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