Another Abahlali member shot dead, allegedly in police raid

Another member of the Abahlali baseMjondolo shack dwellers’ movement has been shot dead in Cato Crest in Durban, this time allegedly by police officers.

Bongumusa Manqele was killed in eNkanini informal settlement on Friday night during a raid by a large police contingent.

The shooting of Manqele, 38, comes on the heels of the murder of Abahlali activist Ayanda Ngila in the nearby eKhekana area of Cato Crest two weeks ago — shortly after he had been released from police custody — and is being investigated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (Ipid).

The movement has been in conflict with the eThekwini municipality and the ANC in the city over its mobilisation in Durban’s informal settlements for more than a decade.

Police initially told the Mail & Guardian that Mangele had been shot by “unknown people” but later said he had allegedly been shot by members of the police service while trying to escape from them.

Abahlali and other civil society organisations in Durban say the movement’s leaders and activists in the area have been under attack from a grouping in the ANC, and that the police have turned a blind eye to the killings, assaults and arson attacks in the Cato Crest area. 

They have also accused police of arresting Abahlali members — including Ngila — on trumped up charges in a bid to intimidate them and prevent them from organising people.

Abahlali president S’bu Zikode said on Tuesday that the police had assaulted and arrested four movement members — Paul Msibi, Vusi Mazula, Mmisele Khondlo and Manqele’s wife, Thandeka Sithunsa — late on Friday night.

The police, who had been looking for unlicensed firearms allegedly used in a murder during January, had shot Manqele several times from behind, Zikode said. 

Manqele, who was the target of the raid, but who had not been home when the police had arrived looking for him, was not armed.

“Police were looking for Bongumusa and were taking Thandeka away because they couldn’t find him when he arrived at his home. Why didn’t they arrest him, instead of shooting him,’’ Zikode said.

“If he was running away from them, they had no reason to shoot him from behind because he was not a threat to them. The police themselves admit that he was shot from behind. Why would you shoot a man when is running? There is no justification for killing him.” 

Zikode said Msibi had been released without being charged, while Mazula, Khondlo and Sithunsa, who were facing murder charges over a shooting that took place in the area in January, were remanded in custody until 22 March.

Police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Nqobile Gwala said the killing had been carried out by “unknown people” at about 2.40am on Friday.

“A case of murder was opened at Cato Manor police station for investigation. The motive for the killing is unknown.”

Gwala said the docket relating to Manqele’s murder was being handled by detectives at Cato Manor and that no docket had been forwarded to Ipid.

“At this stage it is not known who fired the shot that killed him,” Gwala said.

But police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele subsequently said in a report on IOL that Manqele had been shot during a police operation and that Ipid was investigating.

Mbhele said Manquele had confronted the police, who were arresting his wife, and had been shot from behind while fleeing.

Zikode said that by Tuesday, no Ipid investigators had arrived to ascertain what had happened on Friday night. “We are told that an Ipid investigator has been assigned, but nobody has been to talk to the community as yet.”

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Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

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