Maverick Citizen

AGE OF THE ASSASSIN

Conviction for murder of Abahlali baseMjondolo member welcomed, but movement still facing repression

Conviction for murder of Abahlali baseMjondolo member welcomed, but movement still facing repression
Abahlali baseMjondolo leader Ayanda Ngila was murdered while he was fixing water pipes for a food garden in the eKhanana commune in Cato Manor, Durban. (Photo: Supplied)

Khaya Ngubane was convicted this week for the murder of Abahlali baseMjondolo activist Ayanda Ngila. However, the movement is still seeking justice for the murder of 19 other members over the past 20 years.

Ayanda Ngila was the first of four Abahlali baseMjondolo members killed in 2022 during a wave of repression targeted at the shack dwellers’ movement. He was gunned down on 8 March at the eKhenana Commune in Cato Manor, eThekwini.

Ngila, deputy chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo’s eKhenana branch, was 30 years old at the time of his death. He played a vital role in eKhenana’s communal projects and served as a respected leader in Abahlali baseMjondolo.

On Monday, 17 July 2023, Khayalihle Gwabuzela, known as Khaya Ngubane, was found guilty of Ngila’s murder in the Durban Magistrates’ Court. The magistrate found that both Khaya and the witnesses defending him lied under oath.

Killers of Abahlali baseMjondolo leader hunted him down in his shack after failing to find two of his colleagues

“The price for land and dignity has been paid in blood. The struggle for socialism has been met with death,” Abahlali BaseMjondolo said, citing what has become a mantra for the land rights movement.

According to Abahlali baseMjondolo, Ngubane is a member of the ANC Youth League in Cato Crest and the son of Samson Ngubane, “the notorious ANC-aligned Zionist Christian Church pastor”.

“We are being killed by the ANC and the state for standing up for our dignity and organising to build the power of the oppressed from below. The ANC and the state want us to remain divided and silent while they continue to oppress us. They know that they cannot continue to rule in the name of the poor when the poor are autonomously organised,” it said.

“They know that as we build our power from below by organising and building productive communes, their power to oppress us is reduced. They know that as we refuse to vote for amasela nababulali (thieves and murderers), they are slowly losing their hold on power. They know that if the impoverished continue to suffer in their millions the day will come when their anger will turn the country upside down.”

Abahlali said there was an assassination attempt on another member, Lindokuhle Mnguni, in March 2022, but he was able to escape. Mnguni was murdered in August 2022.

“However, they found Ayanda and fired a number of bullets, ending his life. We hope that the others who were acting with Khaya Ngubane will also be arrested and prosecuted and that he will not spend time in prison alone,” the group said.

The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) said it welcomed the verdict against Ngubane, but it noted that three other Abahlali members were assassinated in 2022 and 24 members had been assassinated or killed owing to excessive police force during the organisation’s 20-year history.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The Abahlali baseMjondolo experience exposes South Africa’s shrinking democratic space

“The verdict is an encouraging indication that those who perpetrate violence and attempt to stifle the voices of marginalised communities will be held accountable for their actions. While the pain of losing a loved one can never be fully alleviated, knowing that justice has been served can provide some closure and comfort to those affected by this tragedy,” Seri said.

“Seri remains mindful of the deaths of Siyabonga Manqele, who was allegedly shot and killed by masked police officers on 11 March 2022 in eNkanini settlement; Nokuthula Mabaso, who was shot and killed on 5 May 2022 in eKhenana; and Lindokuhle Mnguni, who was also shot and killed in eKhenana on 20 August 2022.

“While the verdict may be a step towards accountability for these attacks, we call upon the relevant authorities to expedite the prosecution process in the cases of Manqele, Mabaso, and Mnguni to ensure that justice is served in these cases as well,” Seri said.

Abahlali said that of its 24 members who had been killed, there had been only three successful convictions.

The repression has led to many Abahlali leaders leaving their homes and going into hiding for their safety. Recently, the South African Human Rights Commission sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling for high-level intervention to investigate the assassinations.

Seri said the movement’s leaders and individuals associated with Abahlali should be protected from intimidation, violence, and repression.

“We will honour him by taking that struggle forward with courage and commitment and we will keep struggling for justice for Lindokuhle, Nokuthula, and all the others,” Abahlali said. DM

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