On Monday night, 29 September 2014, Thuli Ndlovu, Chairperson of the KwaNdengezi branch of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) shack-dwellers movement, was murdered in her home. KwaNdengezi is a peri-urban settlement near Pinetown, part of the eThekwini Municipality. Ndlovu’s children were on the property at the time she died. Her daughter’s 18-year old maths tutor, Sphe Madlala, was shot, and was taken to hospital in critical condition.
AbM, in their press statement, have described this murder as an assassination. Given their experience of intimidation and violence in KwaZulu-Natal, this view is not unreasonable.
AbM have described a record of ongoing intimidation by ANC Councillor Mduduzi Ngcobo, known as Nqola. On 27 January 2013 Nqola identified people for the police to arrest after a protest. On 6 March 2013 threats made by Nqola were brought to the attention of the municipality during a sit-in at the City Hall. On 19 May 2013 Nqola and others assaulted AbM members outside a police station. On 31 August 2013 Nqola threatened to shoot protesters. A case (197/09/2012) was opened against him. On 22 October 2013 the police and Nqola assaulted protesters, including Thuli Ndlovu. That same night Nqola fired his gun outside Ndlovu’s house. This is all alleged by AbM, who also say that Ndlovu reported being alarmed to see Nqola driving past her house on the night she was murdered.
A November 2013 report by African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma noted that in Ward 12 in KwaNdengezi complaints included allegations that the Ward Councillor was selling government houses and that although “cases of corruption and killing of people in their ward were brought to the police, the police never did anything about the reported cases”. The task team recommended that Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa “facilitate investigations of killings in that ward”.
AbM describe Nqola’s behaviour as fitting into a pattern. They report that Nigel Gumede (Chair of the Human Settlement and Infrastructure committee of the eThekwini Municipality) made threats against AbM leader S’bu Zikode in 2011. A case of intimidation was opened. On 15 March 2013 Thembinkosi Qumbelo, a housing activist (but not an AbM member), was killed in Cato Crest. On 26 June 2013 Nkululeko Gwala, a housing activist and AbM member, was murdered in the same area. On 30 September 2013 a young woman named Nqobile Nzuza died after being shot by police in the back of her head near a protest in Cato Crest.
Some of the above may be criminal murders without political motivation, but we are deeply concerned that political intolerance of community protests in the eThekwini Municipality has reached an intolerable level. We ask the media to devote resources to investigating. We call upon the Durban City Council to suspend Councillor Mduduzi Ngcobo (Nqola) pending investigation. And we call for a full police investigation of Thuli Ndlovu’s murder. Our condolences to the family of Thuli Ndlovu and her comrades in AbM.
Statement issued by: Equal Education, Treatment Action Campaign, Social Justice Coalition, Equal Education Law Centre, SECTION27, Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Nombulelo Nyathela (EE Spokesperson) 060 503 4933
Dmitri Holtzman (EE Law Centre Director) 082 733 5000
Nosipho Kota (TAC communication coordinator) 074 476 3857