Siyabonga Mngadi, activist with the shack-dwellers’ movement Abahlali base Mjondolo’s Durban chapter, Abahlali baseKhenana, was shot on April 14 by an unidentified armed man. Mngadi was injured and is currently under treatment. The attack reportedly took place while they were launching its newest branch in the city and celebrating their recent court victories that allowed them to inhabit the land occupation in Cato Crest. This is seen by the activists as a retaliation for their recent victories. The police is currently investigating the shooting as a probable murder attempt. This is the second attack on an Abahlali baseKhenana activists this month, since the murder that occurred about two weeks ago in the same occupation where the branch was inaugurated.
The attack happened as Abahlali activists were setting up a tent as part of the launch. This comes barely a month and a half after Abahlali baseKhenana won a crucial legal battle against the local leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) and their attempts to clear off the land that they occupied in Cato Crest. The movement has seen some very significant victories and expansion over the past few years, but has been fighting a battle against the city’s ANC chapter which controls the municipality. Despite the attack, the inauguration was a success.
In a press statement put out by the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the movement called the incident an armed attack at the eKhanana Land Occupation in Cato Crest. The land movement in Cato Crest in eThekwini, or Durban, was among the first land occupation movements that became part of the nationwide movement. The land was Afoccupied in 2013 by over 1,000 people, and was met with severe hostility by the Durban ANC. The occupied land, originally named as ‘Marikana’ Land Occupation, later came to be known as eKhenana, which means a “place of hope”.
On February 13, the land occupation won a major legal victory at the Durban High Court which protects them from eviction attempts by Durban municipality under the ANC, through their illegal and infamous “anti-land invasion unit”. Mzimuni Ngiba, the local councillor who has railed against the land occupation, went against the ANC leadership’s decision to drop the attempts to evict the people out of eKhenana, and led a group of his followers to squat on the land, in an attempt to undermine the court judgement. The court issued an eviction order against Ngiba and his followers as intruders into the neighbourhood. It later assigned representatives of the Abahlali to enumerate the residents to avoid any further encroachment into eKhenana.
The press statement released by the Abahlali baseMjondolo indicated a possible involvement of Ngiba in the latest fatal attack on its activists. “We don’t know who is responsible for these shootings,” the statement said, “but we do know that the local ANC councillor has repeatedly threatened our members and the occupation. He has accused our movement of taking what he calls ‘ANC land’.”
The movement, nevertheless, is unwavering in its determination to move forward with its cause. Speaking to Independent Online, local Abahlali spokesperson Lindokuhle Mnguni said, “Our position remains that land must be allocated on the basis of social need and not on a commercial or party political basis. We remain committed to land reform from below via the democratic self-organzation and mobilization of the oppressed.”
The statement by Abahlali also resonated Mnguni’s sentiment, “Our position remains that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and not just to the rich, or to the ANC.”