Statement on the Assassination of S’fiso Ngcobo

Statement on the assassination of S’fiso Ngcobo by the Right Reverend Rubin Phillip, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Natal.

23 May 2018

Statement on the Assassination of S’fiso Ngcobo

On Tuesday night, 22 May 2018, S’fiso Ngcobo was assassinated in eKukhayeni, in Marianhill outside Durban. Ngcobo was the chairperson of the local branch of the shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo. Earlier on Tuesday another member of the movement, Ndumiso Mnguni, was shot and seriously wounded in the Foreman Road settlement in Clare Estate.

The eKukhayeni branch had held a well-attended mass meeting on Saturday 19 May and had reported threats. This is typical of a pattern of impressive local organisation followed by threats and then violence, including assassinations. Abahlali baseMjondolo have endured considerable violence, including a horrifying number of assassinations over the years.

Abahlali baseMjondolo is a democratic organisation, with tens of thousands of members. It is doing vital and courageous work in the interests of social justice. I have been honoured to march with Abahlali baseMjondolo, to be present at its funerals and to speak at its large public events since the organisation was founded in 2005. Just last month I addressed their annual Unfreedom Day.

It is essential that the churches, and other forces in society committed to social justice, insist that the repression of this movement be stopped. We need to engage Abahlali baseMjondolo as call to conscience, and as a call to justice.

The Municipality needs to engage Abahlali baseMjondolo on a democratic basis and to work together with the movement to build a more just society. They should see Abahlali baseMjondolo as partners on a shared journey towards justice. The national government needs to act swiftly to set up a credible and independent team to investigate the murder of S’fiso Ngcobo, and all the murders of Abahlali baseMjondolo members over the years.

I am angry and appalled at the taking of S’fiso’s life. But his memory will never fade and the poor will never relinquish the struggle for justice.

Long live S’fiso Ngcobo
Long live Abahlali baseMjondolo

The Right Reverend Rubin Phillip
Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Natal.
Former Dean of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.