Shack dwellers’ movement 12 free at last [The Mercury]

From The Mercury:

Shack dwellers’ movement 12 free at last

July 19 2011 at 09:42am

Kamini Padayachee

TWELVE Abahlali baseMjondolo (shack dwellers’ movement) members have been acquitted of murder, attempted murder and public violence in connection with an attack at Durban’s Kennedy Road informal settlement two years ago.

The State alleged that the men were part of a community policing forum known as Wanya Tsotsi, loosely translated as criminals, take that, who had gone on the rampage, wielding pangas, sjamboks and other weapons at the settlement on September 27, 2009.

Two men were killed in the attack.

All 12 men were charged with public violence, but five were also charged with murder, and seven with attempted murder. Some also faced charges of assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm, malicious damage to property and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

After their arrest, the Diakonia Council of Churches said the men had been falsely accused and held prayer meetings at court appearances.

Yesterday, Durban Regional Court magistrate Sharon Marks granted a discharge application brought by defence advocate Jimmy Howse.

She said the State witnesses’ testimony had been unsatisfactory.

“They contradicted their prior statements to the police during the trial.

“As if that was not enough, they contradicted one another.”

She added that serious questions had also been raised about identity parades conducted by the police.

Abahlali baseMjondolo spokesman Mnikelo Ndabankulu said the organisation celebrated the ruling at the Kennedy Road settlement.

“We are happy and our faith in the justice system has been restored. There was a joyful mood in Kennedy Road today (yesterday).”

One of the accused, Samukeliso Mkhokhelwa, said he was ecstatic.

Anglican Bishop Rubin Phillip said that Diakonia also celebrated Abahlali’s victory in the “politically motivated and unjust” case.