From the new November-December 2013 issue of News & Letters:
Deadly South African evictions
Durban, South Africa–Two young women were shot in the back in Cato Crest on Sept. 30. They were both shot while running from the police. Nqobile Nzuza was shot in the back and in the back of her head and died on the scene. Luleka Makhwenkwana was shot in her arm, also from the back, and was taken to hospital but has now been discharged.
The police have said that the protest organized by the Cato Crest comrades was not a protest–that it was a criminal act. It is clear to us that our presence, as the autonomously organized poor, as the strong poor, on the streets of the rich, is taken as automatically criminal by the police.
It is also clear to us that many people in the media share this view. We have been made to look like a dangerous threat to society when we have killed no one, harmed no one and destroyed no one’s home.
KILLERS IN CHARGE
At the same time three activists from Cato Crest have been murdered since March and two others have been shot, and one remains currently in hospital, yet the people responsible for this are allowed to show themselves as the custodians of “law and order” and the Constitution.
The police have a long history of trying to prevent us from marching, attacking our peaceful marches and refusing to intervene while we are under violent attack from the African National Congress (ANC) or the Land Invasions Unit demolishing our homes in violation of the Constitution, the Prevention of Illegal Eviction Act and court orders.
WOMEN SHOT IN THE BACK
We have taken time to meet with people who witnessed how Nqobile was shot in the back. People began to gather at around 3:30 AM at Bellair Road. When comrades realized that the police were blocking their way they diverted their route to Harcombe Gardens. This road cuts into the big middle-class houses full of light, clean and clear.
The police drove straight to a group of about 400 comrades. They stopped abruptly, got out of the vehicles and immediately drew their guns out. It was around 4:20 AM. The police were about five meters from the protestors. One police officer shot Nqobile as she was running away.
That police officer was the Cato Manor Station commissioner. He came without his police uniform and was seen drawing his gun and shooting at Nqobile. Nqobile and Luleka were shot from behind while running away from the police. Their wounds clearly show that they were shot from behind.
LIES TOLD TO JUSTIFY MURDER
Neither Nqobile nor Luleka or anyone else fired shots at the police. None of the protestors were armed. It is a lie that is being told to justify murder, cold-blooded murder, political murder–the third political murder in Cato Crest this year.
At around 9:00 AM Bandile Mdlalose participated in a march to the Cato Manor police station to protest against the killing. At this time people also pulled branches and tires into the road and set them alight. There was no violence from the protestors. The television footage shows Bandile pointing at the police and asking them why they had been shooting people.
The police dispersed that march with water cannons and rubber bullets. People fled into the shacks with the police chasing them and shooting them as they tried to hide. After they had broken up the march Bandile was arrested while standing on the pavement.
The story that the police have told about the murder of Nqobile is as much a lie as the story that they told after the Marikana Massacre (see Sept.-Oct. 2012 News & Letters, “South Africa Marikana mine massacre”). It is as much a lie as the story that they told after we were attacked by the ANC in Kennedy Road in 2009. It is as much a lie as the lies that they told after our peaceful marches were attacked in 2005 and 2007.
One young woman is dead. Another has been shot and is injured and another is in jail, denied bail. The police say that they were “terrified”–of three young women, none of whom was armed, while the police had heavy weapons?
The police say that they are upholding “law and order” and the Constitution but no one is under arrest for the murder of three activists in Cato Crest since March, the injuring of two activists by shooting, the many death threats from the ANC and all the illegal evictions, which have often been accompanied by violence.
The police were waiting for our members on Monday morning and they shot us without warning or provocation. They shot to kill. They shot us because we were gathering in the space of the middle classes, the space that used to be for the whites and is now for the rich. We are the ones that are supposed to be moved to the human dumping grounds in the middle of nowhere.
HEROINES OF CATO MANOR 1959
Some of our members grew up with the story of the women’s struggle in Cato Manor in 1959. We have members whose mothers were part of that struggle. Cato Crest is part of Cato Manor of Umkhumbane. The ANC tells us that the women who led the struggle in Cato Manor in 1959, Florence Mkhize and Dorothy Nyembe, are heroes. But, when Abahlali women demand land and housing, safety and dignity, they are criminals.
We are sure that the apartheid state called Florence Mkhize and Dorothy Nyembe criminals too. But they lived as heroes in the hearts of the people just as Nqobile, Luleka and Bandile live in our hearts as heroes.
We see a clear connection between the heroes of 1959 and the heroes of today. We also see a clear connection between the white Boers of 1959 and the Black Boers of 2013. The struggle continues. The struggle for Umkhumbane continues. The women’s struggle in Umkhumbane continues. The struggle to make sure that land, cities, wealth and power are shared fairly continues.
–Excerpted from Abahlali baseMjondolo