Category Archives: Durban Action Against Xenophobia

Durban Action Against Xenophobia Statement

Durban Action Against Xenophobia

On Saturday the 26th September, a meeting of the shack dwellers’ movement, Abahlali basemJondolo, was interrupted by a mob consisting of men apparently shouting that “the AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the amaZulu.” The ensuing violence resulted in deaths, and varied accounts put the number at anywhere between two and eight people having lost their lives. Homes have been destroyed and probably hundreds of people have been displaced. It is clear that the attacks have been on political and ethnic grounds, and there is growing concern regarding the involvement of local authorities including the police, ANC, and ward council.

Today, at a press briefing by the Sydenham Police, it was stated that supposed criminal elements in the community – individuals associated with Abahlali – were responsible for this weekend’s attacks. However, an alternative account of the events in Kennedy Road is becoming increasingly evident.

Eyewitnesses from the international media, who were incidentally present at the time, and members of the community relate a different course of events to the one so far reported. Their perception of the flare-up is as follows:

On Saturday evening, at about 11:30 in the evening, the Abahlali youth league were gathered at the community hall, when they were, apparently unprovoked, surrounded by a mob of men calling for all Xhosa people to leave Kennedy Road. These men were carrying weapons and apparently broke windows. It has been alleged that the leaders of the mob are in fact also the leaders of a Kennedy Road ANC branch.

The Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) “safety and security team” (set up to stamp out crime in the community) arrived unarmed to defend the attendees of the meeting (including an international documentary crew, whose safe escape they secured), and a violent clash ensued leaving at least two people dead. The details of this are as yet unclear.

The clash intensified and the mob went on a rampage, and burned down homes, targeting the Abahlali leaders – every single one of whose home has now been destroyed. The mob apparently called for any Zulus to come out of the shacks before setting them alight.

The police were notified of the violence in Kennedy Road on Saturday night, but did not initially send assistance, apparently, because there were not enough vans. When they did arrive, eyewitnesses report that they stood by while homes were demolished. Homes continued to be destroyed in the presence of senior ANC leaders, who did not act in any way to discourage the violence. Officials from the office of Councillor Yacoob Baig were apparently present in “fancy cars”, passively observing the violence.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, after a number of individuals had been pointed out by some members of the community, the Sydenham police arrested seven men (all members of the KRDC safety and security team, some who had been in performing publicly in Claremont at the very time of the initial attacks and not even on the scene), apparently in connection with the deaths at the community hall, though none of the weapons on the scene were introduced by KDRC. They had not yet been charged by noon on Sunday.

The violence continued through Sunday and Monday, as bands of men bearing weapons such as bush knives, roamed the area, reportedly singing ANC struggle songs and accusing Abahlali of being a front for political party Cope. Members of the media were threatened and told to leave the area.

Many families have now left the area and are dispersed around the city. Those who do not have family or friends to house them are without shelter, food or protection. The displaced do not include only Xhosa members of the community who fear victimisation, but also Zulu men who have experienced intimidation by the mob into participating in the attacks.

Police were apparently present on Sunday and Monday but once again did not intervene, according to reliable sources, but sat in their cars “eating and doing nothing”. It is also alleged that while hundreds of police officers were present at times, they vacated the area once certain ANC officials had left.

A press briefing was held on Monday the 28th September, apparently preceded by a meeting between local government and the police, from which the public was suspiciously excluded.

Abahlali baseMjondolo has clashed with government since their inception in 2005, over issues regarding the rights of the inhabitants of informal settlements, and it seems that the validity of the account provided by officials may be inaccurate, which brings into question the motives of local authorities and police in the area.

According to their website, Abahlali basemJondolo seeks to provide a sustained voice for shack dwellers and “forced numerous government officials, offices and projects to ‘come down to the people’” and has “politicised and fought for an end to forced removals and for access to education and the provision of water, electricity, sanitation, health care and refuse removal as well as bottom up popular democracy.” They have successfully challenged government on issues of selective delivery of services.

Abahlali considers government to be failing in their mandate to uplift the poorest of the poor. Abahlali have specifically clashed with current ward councillor Baig since 2005, when after a march by Abahlali on his offices to demand “land, housing, basic services, democratic development and respect”, Baig reportedly “issued an instruction that [the Kennedy Road community] be denied the promised and paid for installation of electricity as punishment”.

Abahlali has a significant support base in very poor areas, mostly on the fringes of urban and elite areas. They are composed of leaders and members from diverse ethnic backgrounds, since the areas in which they operate are home to many migrant workers. It seems Abahlali has increasingly been targeted by the local ANC as a perceived political threat, and that this weekend’s violence might have been climactic thereof.

Earlier this year the Abahlali president and vice-president suffered serious assaults for which no arrests were ever made. Events such as these and the inaction of police and officials in this weekend’s violence have aroused observer’s suspicions around the motives of and relationship between local government and the police.

It may be that the KRDC’s safety and security team’s clamp-down on crime in the area , which has allegedly included closing down shebeens early and targeting illegal activity in the area, has stirred up resistance from some members of the community. It could be that this resistance is manifesting in attacks on ethnic and political grounds, with the endorsement of police and local authorities.

Clearly there is a serious problem in the area, which is at best being condoned by the authorities or, at worst, actually being encouraged or even instigated by ANC officials and their supporters on the ground, with a particular agenda to eliminate the voice of challenge, and ensure the demise of Abahlali basemJondolo.

The violence has brought about a humanitarian crisis, with possibly over a thousand individuals of various ethnicity displaced around the city. Aid workers are seeking information regarding the displaced who may not have access to basic facilities and supplies. Emergency donations of food that preferably need not be cooked (tinned goods, fresh fruit etc), baby supplies, toiletries, blankets, tents etc are needed.
Offers of sites for temporary refuge in community halls, places of worship etc. are urgently required.

It is crucial the Kennedy Road be made secure for reinhabitation by the displaced. This would require visible and effective police presence and a firm zero tolerance approach by authorities for any and ALL perpetrators of violence. Phone calls/faxes/emails to the Sydenham police station and local council would help impress the concern of the broader Durban community.

Any queries/information/offers of assistance may be directed to Please visit Durban Action Against Xenophobia on Facebook for updates.
Visit for information on the movement and their contact details.