AGE OF THE ASSASSIN
Prominent land activist Ayanda Ngila gunned down in KZN — Abahlali points finger at ANC
Witnesses said four armed men entered eKhenana Commune in the Cato Crest informal settlement near Durban at about 3.20pm on Tuesday and opened fire on Ayanda Ngila as he was working on the irrigation system in a communal garden. He was hit more than seven times.
News of the murder of Ayanda Ngila, a 30-year-old land activist and leader of Abahlali baseMjondolo in the volatile eKhenana Commune in the Cato Crest informal settlement just west of Durban, has been received with shock by civil society and community activists in South Africa and abroad.
Ngila, who was described as a “brilliant and committed young man, a visionary leader”, died on Tuesday afternoon.
Witnesses said four armed men entered the commune from the riverside at about 3.20pm on Tuesday and opened fire on Ngila as he was working on the irrigation system in the communal garden. He was hit more than seven times.
In September last year, Ngila and five other Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders and activists from the eKhenana Commune were released from prison after serving more than six months on charges of murder and conspiring to murder Vusi Shandu, who died after being shot in Cato Manor in March 2021.
The prosecutor said there was insufficient evidence and no prospect of a successful prosecution. Abahlali baseMjondolo and other allied organisations said the arrest and prosecution of the six was an attempt by the local police and the local ANC leadership to use state resources to intimidate and weaken the organisation.
When they were released from prison, the six received a heroes’ welcome from more than 100 supporters.
Lawyers representing the six are still in the process of setting up a civil suit against the minister of police, the commissioner of police and the minister of justice and correctional services for unlawful arrest and prosecution.
After the charges were dropped, Ngila and his five co-accused went into hiding, fearing for their lives. Some returned to eKhenana only on Sunday, where they were welcomed by jubilant family members.
Abahlali baseMjondolo described the murder of Ngila as another example of the impunity of those aligned to the hostile local ANC leadership.
“Another young life has been squandered by our oppressors, another family left in pain. Ayanda is a martyr in the struggle for land, dignity, freedom and socialism.
“His name will be celebrated around the world. We will ensure that his life [is] honoured and that his spirit lives on in our movement. We express our deepest condolences to his family, the residents of the commune and all who enjoyed his warm heart.
“The ANC in Durban are violent criminals. We have found ourselves in a war. This is the time for solidarity and a collective refusal to bow to oppression. No retreat, no surrender,” Abahlali baseMjondolo said in a media statement signed by its president, S’bu Zikode.
Last year Zikode was awarded the Per Anger Prize for being a champion and defender of the rights of the homeless.
The award was presented to him by the Swedish ambassador to South Africa in recognition of Zikode and his movement’s “important work for the right to housing, land and dignity”.
Mqapheli Bonono, Abahlali baseMjondolo’s deputy president and one of the six former accused, said a delegation of the movement visited Ngila’s family on Tuesday evening, but found only children there.
“We will be meeting the family again tomorrow morning to officially confer with them. This is very sad news and we, as the leaders and members of Abahlali are living in fear for our lives,” he said.
Bonono said Ngila’s death was preceded by a series of events that started on Sunday when Abahlali baseMjondolo was holding a meeting in the commune. He said some leading ANC members in the Cato Crest area held a braai and party with loud music and provoked Abahlali baseMjondolo members.
“Some of those people began to attack our members. One female member was attacked with an axe on her back and another female member was hit with a stick in the head, sustaining an injury.
“When we tried to go and open the case at the Cato Manor police station we were ignored. The attacks on the members were still ongoing by Sunday night when I called the station commander and he gave me the number of a senior officer. When I called that officer he sounded drunk and said he could not assist me because he was busy with something else,” said Bonono.
They managed to open the cases only on Monday, but the attackers are still at large. Bonono alleges that one of the attackers, a known local man, led the four men who attacked and killed Ngila on Tuesday afternoon.
KZN police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele on Tuesday night told Daily Maverick she was awaiting a response from the Cato Manor police station before she could confirm the incident.
Meanwhile, the ANC in KZN has slammed Abahlali baseMjondolo for issuing what they termed “provocative statements without any proof”.
“You cannot say the ANC has killed people or the ANC has sent people to kill other people,” said Nhlakanipho Ntombela, the spokesperson for the ANC in KZN.
“If you have got evidence that so-and-so killed your leader or member, you have an obligation to go to the police and open a case and give evidence. Otherwise, going out and issuing statements that ANC killed people is reckless.” DM