AGE OF THE ASSASSIN
Third Abahlali baseMjondolo leader – Lindokuhle Mnguni – murdered in cold blood
Lindokuhle Mnguni was a brilliant young man with a great future in leadership. He was a fearless leader who stood for his community, was always humble yet strong. He always dedicated his time to the people, according to Abahlali baseMjondolo.
The 28-year-old chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo, Cato Manor branch, Lindokuhle Mnguni, was gunned down at his home in Cato Manor on Saturday, 20 August 2022. Mnguni is the third Abahlali leader to be killed in the space of six months, after deputy president of Abahlali in eKhenana Ayanda Ngila was shot and killed on 11 March 2022 and Nokuthula Mabaso was shot dead inside her house on 5 May 2022.
Mnguni is also the 24th leader to be killed since the shack dwellers’ movement was established.
Mnguni was a witness to the murder of Ayanda Ngila and his death comes amid the spotlighting of the continued targeting of human rights defenders, not just in South Africa but across the world, prompting a report raising the alarm on this by UN special rapporteur Mary Lawlor at the UN’s Human Rights Council.
“In the early hours of this morning, Lindokuhle Mnguni, the chairperson of the eKhenana Commune and the Youth League, was assassinated at the commune. Mnguni was a powerful intellectual with a mind like a razor. He was a young man with real vision and commitment, a brave man whose will to struggle was not broken by six months in prison, long periods in hiding and having to bury two close comrades this year,” read the press release issued by the organisation on Saturday.
CCTV footage shows the gunmen entering the commune in the early hours of Saturday morning and breaking Mnguni’s window with a spade before shooting at him and his girlfriend. Mnguni died on the scene. His girlfriend survived, but is in critical condition in hospital. Neighbours say they saw two men leaving the commune right after the shooting.
A witness (name withheld for their safety) to Mnguni’s murder told Maverick Citizen:
“It was around 1.30am when I was sleeping and heard a breaking window and gunshots. I waited till the gunshots stopped, then ran to [Mnguni’s] house and found that our chairperson Lindokuhle Mnguni and the mother of his child had been shot. That is when I called out to our community members to help, who woke up and came to [Mnguni’s] house.”
In a video interview with Maverick Citizen, General Secretary of Abahlali baseMjondolo Thapelo Mohapi said:
“It is clear that this is a continuous attack and repression on the people of eKhenana because the very people who were seen are the very people who killed Ayanda Ngila in March this year. We have no hope and no trust in the justice system in this country, particularly the police, who we had to go and fetch to come to the scene and open a case.”
The Socio Economic Rights Institute has issued a message of commiseration and solidarity:
“Over the past year, the eKhenana commune has experienced an intensified level of repression, where the community has been attacked on several occasions, key leaders have been arrested and detained for periods ranging from weeks to months without any of them being convicted.
Lindokuhle Mnguni was arrested and detained for six months in 2021. He was later released when the charges against him, Ayanda Ngila and Landu Tshazi were dropped. In January 2022, Mnguni, Ngila and Tshazi were arrested again, together with Maphiwe Gasela, only to be released over a month later.
“Abahlali’s struggle for land, housing and basic services in eThekwini is waged at a heavy cost. Mnguni and other leaders killed in eKhenana have been fighting for a right to live in the city, for access to land and to live with dignity. For them to be killed for such a cause is evidence of a land crisis that the state has failed to address.”
In June this year, at a discussion on Violent Political Repression hosted by The Forge discussion, Mnguni said:
“They will know that their strategy to keep us behind bars is not working and the only choice they will be left with is to kill us, but we won’t stop. We used to counsel each other several times because with the assassination of Comrade Ayanda, I was deeply hurt but, at the same time, I managed to survive because of the things that we discussed before. We used to talk a lot about death because we knew that some day luck won’t be on our side. They will kill us. We even said, ‘it is socialism or death!’ because we want it. No matter what it takes, even if it means death, because we can’t continue living in these inhumane conditions.”
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On the news of Mnguni’s passing, co-director of the Forge and land activist Yvonne Phyllis told Maverick Citizen:
“Comrade Lindokuhle was a committed land activist, a leader, an internationalist and never missed an opportunity to critique patriarchy. Comrade Lindokuhle was murdered for fighting for a better South Africa. His assassination has robbed us all of a great leader!
“The ongoing severe repression and assassinations of members of the Abahlali baseMjondolo social movement is a blatant attack on the movement and what it stands for – ‘Umhlaba Izindlu neSithunzi- Land Housing Dignity’. It is an effort to demoralise the movement which we so desperately need. It is an attack on the political contestation which Abahlali is committed to and is respected for, globally, a movement of the oppressed which ‘insists that the social value of land must be placed before its commercial value’. We demand justice for comrade Lindokuhle Mnguni and all the murdered activists.”
Speaking to Maverick Citizen, former New Frame editor Richard Pithouse, who has researched and written extensively on the struggles of Abahlali baseMjondolo, including a research paper titled Abahlali baseMjondolo and the struggle for the city in Durban, South Africa, said:
“Lindokuhle, interested in progressive ideas since high school, deeply thoughtful, quietly charismatic and astonishingly courageous, was a leader with rare gifts, the sort of gifts that we are lucky to see even once in a generation. Like other leaders in Abahlali baseMjondolo, he expected that his political commitment would cost him his life, and chose to take on that risk.
“He was the leading figure among the extraordinary group of people that envisaged, built and sustained the eKhenana commune in the maw of relentless repression. The ubiquity of what Abahlali baseMjondolo have termed ‘the politic of blood’ and the ‘slow Marikana’ is irrefutable evidence that, for the impoverished majority, the human rights written into our law reach their limit when the oppressed resolve to affirm their full and equal humanity.”
Abahlali baseMjondolo said: “We are in mourning. Our hearts are heavy. We have lost a real leader with a very bright future. We have lost someone who was prepared to lay down his life for the commune, the movement and the struggle for a world where land, wealth and power are shared, and the humanity of all is recognised.”
Established in 2005, Abahlali baseMjondolo has been fighting for the rights of all people to have land, housing and dignity. The organisation has continuously clashed with the City of eThekwini for land occupations, and consistently claimed that the source of their repression and victimisation is as a result of their defiance of ANC councillors attempting to silence them. DM/MC