HE Ms Lindiwe Mabuza
South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom
South Africa House
London WC2N 5DP
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7451 7283
30 September 2009
I am writing to you from the UK charity War on Want to express my grave concern over the recent attacks by armed assailants against shack dwellers residing in the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban.
These attacks were reported to us by Abahlali baseMjondolo, a non-violent community-based group advocating for the provision of basic services to informal settlements and for an end to forced evictions in South Africa. War on Want is an organisation fighting to end global poverty and to promote human rights, and was a staunch supporter of the struggle against apartheid. War on Want has worked in partnership and solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo since 2008.
Our partner shared with us news about the unprovoked attacks, which began on the evening of Saturday 26 September 2009 and continued well into the night of Sunday 27 September, and which were carried out by a violent mob of 30-40 men wielding knives and guns. These men broke into the homes of people living in the informal settlement in Kennedy Road, many of whom were members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee, which is affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo. The assailants proceeded to burn and destroy their shacks and possessions.
An unknown number of people have been killed and seriously injured in the violence, and hundreds of families who fled the scene have lost their homes and possessions. We are alarmed at reports that local police forces failed to intervene in defence of the lives and properties of shack dwellers, as highlighted by Abahlali baseMjondolo. We are also concerned at reports from a number of quarters that some local representatives of the ANC have supported the attacks.
War on Want calls for an immediate end to the violence in Kennedy Road. It also calls for an urgent and thorough investigation to be conducted into those who instigated the hostilities, as well as into the reports of police failure to defend residents’ lives and properties. We express our solidarity with Abahlali baseMjondolo and all those committed to peaceful, democratic and inclusive community action to improve the living conditions of South Africa’s shack dwellers.
I look forward to hearing from you as to the action being taken by the South African government in this matter.