Churches to probe shack deaths

In this article ‘residents’ should be read to mean ‘local ANC members’.

Churches to probe shack deaths

November 30, 2009 Edition 2

Kamini Padayachee

THE Diakonia Council of Churches is to launch an independent inquiry into the events leading to the deaths of two men in an attack on the Kennedy Road informal settlement, in Sydenham, Durban, in October.

This was announced by Anglican Bishop Rubin Phillip at a prayer service before 13 men accused of the crimes appeared in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

Phillip said the objective of the inquiry would be to establish the truth about the attack, as he suspected that the 13 men arrested for the crimes were innocent. The men are members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement), which claims that its members had been targeted the night of the attack.

The inquiry would be carried out by “high-powered legal professionals” and notable citizens with impeccable track records, as well as distinguished international experts, said Abahlali in a statement.

“The objective of the commission would be to establish the truth,” it said.

Phillip said Abahlali’s name had been “darkened and tarnished”. “Abahlali’s reputation must be vindicated,” he said.

However, residents of the settlement say that the men arrested were part of a safety forum initially established to fight crime in the area. Instead of fighting crime, however, the group had allegedly terrorised people and imposed curfews in the area.

In court, prosecutor Blackie Swart said that four identity parades had been carried out and it had been established which men were implicated in which crimes. He said that charges should be withdrawn against one man.

The 12 remaining men are all charged with public violence, five are additionally charged with murder, and seven with attempted murder.

Some of the men are also facing charges of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Swart said the State had no objection to the seven men not charged with murder being granted bail, provided they did not return to the settlement and reported to a police station once a week. Magistrate B Mbulawa granted bail of R1 000 each to the seven men, but denied bail to the remaining five.

The case was adjourned to December 11.