On Friday 9 September, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa sent a letter concerning the ongoing attacks on Abahlali baseMjondolo to members of the South African executive and legislature, as well as commissioners of regional and international human rights organisations.
The letter, which received the endorsement of over 140 civil society organisations and individuals, called for urgent intervention to protect these activists from further harm.
Within the last six months, three Abahlali leaders from the eKhenana Commune in Cato Manor in KwaZulu-Natal have been shot and killed. Ayanda Ngila was murdered in March, Nokuthula Mabaso was murdered in May and Lindokuhle Mnguni was murdered in August. Both Mabaso and Mnguni were witnesses to the murder of Ngila.
In addition, several Abahlali members, including the three who were later assassinated, have been arrested and detained repeatedly for charges ranging from assault, conspiracy to commit murder and murder, although none of these prosecutions has resulted in a conviction.
Many members in the community are at risk because of their roles as leaders, and/or because they have been witnesses to the assassinations of fellow Abahlali members, and this has forced them into hiding for their safety and that of their families.
As members of civil society, in support of Abahlali, we condemn these attacks and further condemn the apparent silence on these events from the state. Such violence against movements and organisations like Abahlali is an indication that South Africa’s constitutional democracy and the freedoms for which we fought so hard are under attack.
The letter calls for urgent intervention at the national level to protect other leaders at risk and ensure that transparent, independent and expeditious investigations are conducted. The letter calls for the minister of justice, the minister of police and the South African Human Rights Commission to assist in addressing the situation in eKhenana. The letter also calls on the government to invite the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders to visit South Africa.
The full letter and complete list of endorsees can be read below:
The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa is a non-profit human rights organisation that works with communities, social movements, individuals and non-profit organisations in South Africa and beyond to develop and implement strategies to challenge inequality and realise socio-economic rights.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Mail & Guardian.