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South Africa: Release the Kennedy 5

Mandisi | 10.04.2007 10:11 | Repression | Social Struggles

The South African state is trying to smash the shackdwellers movement. They are highly militant and have done a lot of great things since they started about 2 years ago. Now 5 of the comrades are in prison on trumped up charges of murder. They stand to spend 2 years awaiting trial in one of the most horrible prisons in South Africa. If comrades in different countries could fax the South African embassies in your country, calling for the release of the Kennedy 5, this might help. Also, the committee has included an email address of someone in the unit that investigates the police (ICD) and are calling for emails to him.

Wednesday, April 03, 2007
Press Release from the Remaining Members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (K.R.D.C.)

The Kennedy 5 Are Now On Hunger Strike in Westville Prison

Last Night Our Mass Meeting Decided to March on the Sydenham Police Station on Tuesday and to Light Candles There in Support Our Comrades

At 3:00 in the morning on Human Rights day, 21 March, 9 residents of our shack settlement, Kennedy Road, in Durban, South Africa were arrested by Police from the nearby Sydenham Police station. Five of the arrested were released after a two day women’s protest at the Sydenham police station. Halala Izimbokodo! Celebrate the strength of women! But then they arrested one more person and so five community members are still detained. There names are:

1.Cosmos Nkwanyana
2.S'thembiso Bhengu
3.S'bongiseni Gwala
4.Thina Khanyile
5.M’du Ngqulunga

They are in Westville prison and will appear in court on 13 April to ask for bail. This means that they will have already been in jail for one month before they even get a chance to ask for bail. And the magistrate may deny bail. The Kennedy 5 have now decided to go on a hunger strike. They stopped eating on Sunday. They do not undertake this action lightly. They have written a list of demands which we expect to get today.

The background to this sad story is that on 15 February 2007 a Kennedy Road resident, Thina Khanyile, was attacked near the bus stop on Umgeni Road while training for the Comrades Marathon. He was stabbed 18 times and robbed of his shoes and his watch. He would have died if a truck driver from Kennedy Road hadn’t seen him there and quickly bought him up to the settlement where we could call an ambulance.

On 18 February a well known and dangerous criminal living in the settlement told people in the community that Khanyile’s attacker was in the Kennedy Road settlement. Those people restrained the suspect without causing any hurt to him and sent for Khanyile. Khanyile recognized him as the man who had almost killed him. At that point some people in the community began to assault the man who we now know was Mzwake Sithole from Ntuzuma. Members of the Safety & Security sub-committee in the Kennedy Road Development Committee immediately called the police. They called the police because even though there are such bad problems with most of the police here we still have to go to the few good police officers for serious cases like attempted murder and murder. When the police arrived the man looked to be fine. The crowd of more than 50 people all saw the police assaulting the man with kicks and punches as he walked to the van and climbed inside.

Khanyile then went twice to the Sydenham Police station to open up a case against his attacker. We heard nothing more until the Human Rights Day arrests. When the arrests were made we were told that Sithole had died in police custody a week after his arrest. But what has shocked us is that the police just arrested Khanyile, the victim of Sithole’s attack, and the K.R.D.C. Most of the people who they arrested were not even there on that day! And it was the Safety & Security Committee of the K.R.D.C. that immediately phoned the police to come and fetch Sithole’s attacker! There was a big group of people who were there and who saw what did happen. It is not difficult to speak to them and to get the truth. Anyone who wants to find out the truth of what happened that day can find it very easily. If there is a trial then the truth will come out very easily and very clearly in the court. It is clear that Glen Nayager, head of the Sydenham Police, has seen his opportunity to break the famous spirit of Kennedy Road by misusing this incident this to destroy the K.R.D.C. Nayager does not try to hide the fact that he hates the K.R.D.C., that he hates Abahlali baseMjondolo, the big movement of shack dwellers that Kennedy Road is part of, and that he wants all shack dwellers to be forcibly removed out of his area. He is always telling us that we ‘must go back where we came from’ and that ‘there will be no red shirts here’. We have heard that this is very similar to what happened to the Landless People’s Movement in Johannesburg where activists were arrested on fake murder charges in an attempt to break the spirit of the movement after a man died in a shack fire. No one has any doubt that the K.R.D.C. is under political attack by Nayager. He does not only tell us that he wants to attack the K.R.D.C. and Abahlali baseMjondolo. Journalists are telling us that he is saying this openly to them too.

We have discussed this matter very carefully and we all agree that if Sithole is now dead then his death must be carefully investigated. We have made a whole politics on the ground that everybody matters. Therefore every death must be taken seriously just as every life must be taken seriously. But the Sydenham Police cannot be trusted to make this investigation. It is true that some people in Kennedy Road did assault Sithole after he was identified as Khanyile’s attacker. But it is also true that more than 50 people also saw the police assaulting Sithole when they came to fetch him from Kennedy Road. And we don’t know what happened in the van and in the cells after that. But we do know that ever since Nayager came to the Sydenham Police station in 2004 people are arrested on fake charges all the time and people are beaten all the time – especially in the cells. Nayager is following in the steps of his cruel father who tortured the black consciousness activists in the 70s. Around 200 of us have been arrested in the last two years and every time the charges are dropped because they were nonsense but that still gives the police a chance to beat us while and after arresting us. Therefore the arrests on fake charges become a punishment without any hearing in front of a judge! This makes Nayager, a criminal, the man who judges us and then gives us the sentence. That station has become a place of suffering for the innocent. Many of us, and many people from other Abahlali settlements, have been beaten very badly there after being arrested for marching for land and housing in the city. Afterwards Nayager always lies to the media about what happened but many, many people, including lots of journalists, have seen for themselves how he behaves. Journalists have seen Nayager’s police shooting at us with pistols as are running away. There is even a film of the police attacking us. It is on our website. Right now Abahlali is organising to sue Nayagar and the Sydenham Police with the support of X-Y and Amnesty International for a very bad beating of two Abahlali members in the cells and the shooting of one more last year. Therefore the K.R.D.C. is calling for an independent investigation into Sithole’s death. That investigation must be carried out by a neutral team that can closely examine the role of the Sydenham Police and the role of the community speaking to everyone and looking fairly and honestly at all the facts.

Ever since Nayager came to the Sydenham Police station all shack dwellers in Sydenham, Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills have been treated as if we are criminals and as if we are not human beings. This man has vandalized our humanity. And when Abahlali baseMjondolo was started two years he began to hate us even more. He is always telling us that he will drive the red shirts out of his area. Sometimes you can be arrested and beaten just for wearing a red shirt even if you are just waiting at the bus stop. One person was even arrested on a charge of attending an illegal gathering while asleep in his bed! It seems that even planning to attend a march is a crime for Nayager. It is not the job of the police to decide which organisations can work in an area and which can not. Their work is to protect the people from criminals not to silence the voice of the poor. They should be working for all the people as the servants of the people including the poor. They are never there when our women face abuse but if you put on a red shirt 8 vans can be there in 5 minutes!

We are also calling for a second investigation. We believe very strongly that the many abuses that the Sydenham Police have perpetrated on the shack dwellers of the area since Nayager’s arrival must be investigated very closely. The problems of racism, violence, corruption, criminality and political oppression at the police station need to be investigated very seriously. This police station is like a sore in the community - a sore that gets worse as it rots more each day. We know that it doesn’t have to be this way because there was a good relationship between shackdwellers and the police when Supt. Maritz was the head. In those days we worked together, once even working with the Air Wing to catch some armed robbers who were also abusing women while hiding in one the settlements. In those days shackdwellers could go to the police and have their problems taken seriously although there was a problem of police not understanding isiZulu. But for that reason one of our members became a reservist. We would like to work closely with the police again and in fact a few weeks ago we met with some police officers who also want this. But in our discussions with those good offices we quickly ran into one big problem – Nayagar. Shackdwellers and the police can’t work together in Sydenham and Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills while Nayager is there. His hatred for us all and his political mission to try and crush the voice of the strong poor makes a good relationship impossible.

It is important to say something about the Safety & Security Sub-Committee of the K.R.D.C. because the police are talking as though that committee are criminals. We have this committee to resolve tensions in the community and to sort out problems that are too small for the police or that police won’t bother themselves with. The members of this committee are elected every year and are not paid for this work. People do it only for the love of the community and for the honour. When there is a problem between two people this committee tries where ever possible to get people to agree to a solution that both can accept. When this is not possible the committee can ask a person who has done something wrong to pay a fine to the person that they have harmed or, if what they did was very bad, to leave the settlement. The committee does not use violence. The community wants this committee and votes every year for people to be on it. It is especially wanted by women because as everyone knows the women who are living alone in shacks are very vulnerable to criminals. A shack is not strong like a big house. Anyone can push inside any time. The committee is the only place that they can turn to.

We also want to make it very clear that we are aware that Nayager is using the worst criminal in the area as his main informer. This man, the same man who told people that Sithole was Khanyile’s attacker, is pointing out the committee to Nayager in exchange for not being arrested for his crimes – crimes against the rich and against the poor. This man robs rich people in their houses and he robs poor people at the bus stop. Therefore Nayager is protecting dangerous criminals to attack democrats who are only struggling to build a country that makes space for everyone who lives here! We also know who the other informer is. This man has resentment because he was voted out of the K.R.D.C. in 2003 after one year of serving as deputy Chair. His son-in-law recently accused his neighbour, Ma Gwala, of witchcraft. He was jealous of all the respect that she was getting in the community for caring for the orphans and working at the crèche. Ma Gwala went to the Safety & Security to complain. There was a hearing on 18 February, the same day as the day when Khanyile’s attacker was identified. At that hearing S’thembiso Bhengu and Cosmos Nkwanyane decided that this man’s son-in-law must pay R1000.00 to Ma Gwala to wash her name. That is the reason why Ma Gwala, her husband and her brother as well as Bhengu and Nkwanyane were pointed out. Nayager is misusing the death of Sithole to attack the K.R.D.C. His informers are misusing Nayager’s hatred to point out their own enemies. This is not justice. This is an unjust alliance between political oppression from the police and a criminal and a jealous man in the community. M’du Ngqulunga also wasn’t present when Sithole was attacked. But he has been pointed because the day after the first 9 were arrested he mentioned the role of Nayager’s criminal informer at a mass meeting. That’s when the informer gave his name.

We want thank all the organisations and individuals who have sent messages of support like the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Socialist Students’ Movement and others. We can’t always reply because we don’t always have airtime and we don’t have email but we thank you. Every message is shared with the community. Many people have asked who they can write to in order to express their concern. We have discussed this and decided on a man at the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). Our experience with the ICD has not been good. They did not help when Nayager’s police broke System Cele’s front teeth by beating her so hard on the back of her head that her face smashed into the road or when Nayager stole Raj Patel’s camera with pictures of the attack on System Cele or when Nayager threatened other journalists with violence. They did not help when the police shot Monica Ngcobo in the back in Umlazi. They did not help after S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were beaten by Nayager in the cells in his police station for the crime of trying to attend a radio interview and another lady was shot for protesting against this the beating of Zikode and Zungu. But a good friend of Abahlali has told us that there is a good man in the Internal Complaints Directorate. We will be meeting with this man soon and our friends are welcome to ask him to consider our requests which are:

1.A neutral and fair and serious investigation of Sithole’s death that includes the Sydenham police and the Kennedy Road community without bias.
2.An investigation of the Sydenham Police station from the arrival of Nayager to now including police brutality, corruption, theft, racism and political oppression including political violence.

The name of the man at the ICD is Mr. Mthokozisi Ngcobo and his email address is

We are especially asking our friends who have witnessed Nayager’s behaviour and other criminal actions of the Sydenham police to send their stories and photographs and films to Mr. Ngcobo. We know that there are people all over the world who know the truth about how Nayager behaves. One American boy has a photograph of a police officer from Sydenham firing his pistol into the backs of fleeing demonstrators in Foreman Road.

Our friends have also been asking about financial support in the time of this crisis. We have talked about this and are we are asking people who can to give financial support to the families of the 5 men on hunger strike in Westville Prison. If the Kennedy 5 are awarded bail on 13 April we will also need bail money for them. And we will need money for a lawyer for the trial. We need about R5 000 a month for the five families. We have a lawyer with a good heart who is standing with us now for the love of God not money. But he is only available till the end of the month and then we might need to pay a lawyer. We’ll need about R20 000 for the trial. If the Kennedy 5 get bail that will be set by the magistrate but because none of the 5 are employed and none of their family members are employed we hope that it will be kept low.

Our account details are:

Kennedy Road Development Committee
Bank: First National Bank
Acc no: 620899692923
Branch: Umgeni Junction

For people in America money can be donated by going to ‘support’ on our website which is at

People who can give money should state what they want the money to be for: ‘Family support’, ‘bail’ or ‘lawyer’.

Our mass meeting last night decided to march on the Sydenham Police station this Tuesday. We will surround the police station and light candles and sing. We are informing the authorities of this march today so they can’t claim that this will be an illegal march and beat again. If they try to illegally ban this march we will take them straight back the high court like we did in February last year.

For further information please contact:

Mr. Lembede 0766837751
Mr. Mdlalose 0721328458

Qina bahlali!
Umhlaba! Izindlu!
Phansi maphoyisa shaya abantu!
Wathint' abahlali, wathint' imbokodo!
Amandla Awethu!

If anyone is able to condense the information above into a document that is suitable for faxing to the South African embassy, please post it here.

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