Statement on the Return to Kennedy Road

21 August 2011
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Statement on the Return to Kennedy Road

Those members of the ANC that attacked our movement in September 2009, that banned our movement in the Kennedy Road settlement after the attack on the pain of death, that destroyed and looted our homes for months, that sold our sites to new people, that made death threats to state witnesses in the trial that followed the attack on our movement and attacked one witness and issued public death threats against many of us have now run to the media to say that they are scared of the return of the displacees to Kennedy Road. They have even gone to the police to ask that we must be prevented from returning to the settlement. They are trying to present themselves as victims.

We wish to be clear about somethings.

We have always been very clear that any politic that tries to make the poor turn on the poor is a very, very dangerous politic. We have always rejected this and worked very hard to build unity amongst the poor. We have worked against xenophobia, against ethnic politics and against attempts to use party politic to destroy a living politic.

When our leaders were first attacked in 2008 we did not respond with violence. We found the grandmothers of the attackers and we negotiated reconciliation and healing through them. When our movement was attacked in 2009 we were clear that the attackers were still part of us, that everyone that had been hurt and killed was part of the community, part of us. We made it very clear that we mourned all deaths and injuries as tragic. We were very clear that our enemies were those that had mobilised the poor to attack the poor. We made it very clear that we wanted an independent commission of inquiry that would find the full truth of what had happened. We suggested that Pius Langa could head this commission. We also made it clear that as well as the truth we also wanted healing. We were always clear that we wanted healing and not revenge. We wanted the truth as a step towards healing.

After the attack the displacees met every Sunday at Botha Park. The group included the KRDC, the Kennedy 12 and around a hundred others. The civil case that the displacees are taking forward against the police for supporting the attackers and failing to protect their basic rights is moving forward. But it was eventually decided that, in the interests of peace and safety, they would not return until the trial of the Kennedy 12 was over and the lies that had been told about our movement were exposed for what they were.

The trial is now over. The witnesses that testified to the ANC story about the 2009 attacks in court were found to have been lying. The police that supported these liars were found to have fabricated evidence. The Kennedy 12 were fully acquitted of all charges against them. Despite the huge political pressure to secure a prosecution not one of the allegations that was made against the Kennedy 12 or our movement stood up in court.

We have welcomed the verdict of the court but we have also made it clear that a victory in court will not count as a full victory until:

1. Everyone who was displaced from Kennedy Road and who wishes to return to the settlement can do so in safety.

2. There is free and safe political activity for all organisations in the settlement.

If the senior ANC leaders, like Willies Mchunu, that supported the attack on our movement by describing us as 'criminals', welcoming the 'liberation' of the settlement and announcing that they had 'disbanded' our movement want healing they should:

1. Issue a statement of apology to the Kennedy 12, everyone who had to flee Kennedy Road, our movement and everyone that suffered in the attack.

2. Issue a statement that affirms the full right of everyone in Kennedy Road to organise safely and freely in the settlement in the organisations of their choice.

3. Support the right to return of all the displacees and assist them in rebuilding their homes.

4. Establish an independent and credible commission of inquiry that can examine all aspects of the violence and political repression in Kennedy Road.

But if these senior ANC leaders continue to deny the right of the poor to organise ourselves freely then we will organise our own return to Kennedy Road.

Before the recent local government elections ordinary ANC members in Ward 25 rejected the faction of the local ANC that organised the attack on our movement. They were voted out of the ANC and some of them followed the old ANC councillor, Yakoob Baig, into the Truly Alliance. The people who have now come into leadership in the local ANC are people with whom we have had a good relationship. We see no reason why we cannot work them in the spirit of democracy and the interests of the whole community.

Yakoob Baig and the former mayor Obed Mlaba were not people that could be trusted. But we have no reason not to think that we cannot work with the new councillor Bhekisisa Ngcoba and the new mayor James Nxumalo. We have written to both of them, as well as to the new head of the Sydenham Police Station, Officer De Villiers, to request their support in the return of the displacees to Kennedy Road. We have made it clear that we wish to negotiate the return in such a way that no one has anything to fear. We have made it clear that we will not request that those that bought our sites and houses from the attackers will be evicted. We are always against evictions and we are always for the unity of the poor. There is enough space in Kennedy Road for everyone that is now living there as well as all the displacees to have a place.

We are committed to realising the right of return for all displacees that want to return to the settlement and we are committed to realising this right in a way that brings healing to a community that was poisoned by the worst kind of party politic. No one living in Kennedy Road, including those that bought the land and houses of the displacees from the attackers, has anything to fear from the return of the displacees.

For comment please contact the Durban office of Abahlali baseMjondolo on 031 304 6420.