Amnesty International condemns Human Rights abuse of Abahlali members

Amnesty International condemns Human Rights abuse of Abahlali members
Paul Trewhela
18 December 2009

Zuma’s government given criticism devoted in the past decades to the apartheid state

On the Day of Reconciliation in South Africa, 16 December, Amnesty International – the world’s foremost human rights organisation – has issued a damning condemnation of the conduct of the government of the African National Congress, led by President Jacob Zuma. (See here).

The ANC party/state was given the kind of criticism devoted in previous decades to the apartheid state, and to the ANC for its human rights abuses in exile, as in its Quatro prison camp in Angola.

The focus of this exemplary criticism by Amnesty International was the refusal of the Zuma government to uphold the law and even to make adequate inquiry into human rights abuses carried out by ANC party loyalists against black people in Zuma’s political home base, KwaZulu-Natal.

On the eve of the public debt-funded jamboree soon to be enjoyed by the get-rich-quick beneficiaries of ANC grace and favours at the 2010 football World Cup – not to mention the international beneficiaries of the global Roman circus that is contemporary professional football – the focus of this critique is the state’s attacks upon and its neglect of the so-called informal settlements, in which, as Amnesty states, “an estimated 10 percent of South African households are located.”

Colossall football Colosseums – for some.

Destruction of the shacks of the poor – for many.

In particular, Amnesty expresses its concern at an issue of “political control” as being at the heart of what it truthfully calls a “violent attack” upon the shackdwellers at Kennedy Road in Durban, members of a non-violent organisation of the poor, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM).

As a result of its guilty obsession with “political control” (ie control over the goodies of the public purse), the ANC and its government have been taken to ask for undermining the criminal justice system and for placing lives at risk, in a situation in which people had been left “vulnerable to threats of violence”.

Amnesty expresses further concern that its representations met only a low-grade response from the government. The office of the Head of State had “acknowledged receipt of Amnesty International’s letter, but the organization has not yet received a more substantial reply to its concerns”.

A crucial issue is the clear implication in the Amnesty statement that local ANC political authorities and the police force in Durban/eThekwini – a predominantly isiZulu-speaking area – are responsible for a racist campaign of terror, in contradiction to the founding principles of the ANC, and that a government headed by an isiZulu-speaking President has been at least neglectful of its duties.

Amnesty notes that the pogrom gang – armed with machetes and other weapons – which launched a murderous attack on the Kennedy Road settlement on the night of 26 September “identified targets to be removed from Kennedy Road in ethnic terms, as ‘amaMpondo’ (Xhosa-speakers) or as non-Zulus”; that the houses of all 13 Kennedy Road residents arrested by the police had been demolished; and that all of the arrested men “appeared to have a specific ethnic profile as Xhosa-speakers originally from the Eastern Cape Province”.

We have here an accusation by Amnesty of racist lynch law in contravention of the law and Constitution, and of the founding principles of the ANC itself.

There could be no more damning indictment of the political structure of the so-called “New” South Africa. But also: no more damning indictment of an opposition and a press that have failed to defend, failed to hold power to account, failed to oppose and failed to inform.

What a contemptible state of affairs, on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the massacre at Sharpeville, and the 20th anniversary of the unbanning of the ANC, the PAC, the SACP and other political organisations, as well as…the release from life imprisonment of President Emeritus Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, himself an isi-Xhosa speaker.

The statement by Amnesty International, posted below, marks a sea-change in international perceptions of South Africa. It should be studied with care by every reader, in this season of revelry and festivity.

What has become of the “Rainbow Nation”, to have sunk to this condition?

Was it for this, that so much blood and tears were shed?

Happy Christmas, for the Abahlali men in jail and under charge, their families and friends, in this season of shame.

Happy Day of Reconciliation, comrades.