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Church support for Kennedy Road squatters: The Church of England Newspaper, April 13, 2012 p 6. April 18, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Church of England Newspaper, Crime, Politics.
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A squatter’s settlement in Durban that has been a flashpoint between the ruling African National Congress and pro-democracy activists has been badly damaged by a fire of unknown origin.

On the night of 3 April 2012 fire swept through informal settlement.  A spokesman for the Durban fire brigade said that upwards of 100 homes were destroyed, but only two people were injured.

The Archbishop of Cape Town, Dr Thabo Makgoba, offered his condolences and assured residents of his continued support.  In a letter given to the Bishop of Natal, the Rt. Rev. Rubil Phillip, Archbishop Makgoba said “We are deeply saddened in Holy Week to learn of the fire which has ravaged the little which the people and community still possessed. I understand that it is estimated that at least 1000 people are now homeless.”

“I know of the journey of the people of Kennedy Road: of their struggle for descent housing, for dignity and respect and the realisation of their constitutional rights. As we weep with them at this time, we continue to support their call for dignity and justice, and we appeal to our leaders and to the general population to help provide people with proper houses, and to improve the provision clean water and decent sanitation.

“May the message of Easter bring consolation to the community and a resolve to continue their fight for better housing, sanitation and water, as well as for safety.”

The Kennedy Road settlement was the scene of a violent confrontation when on the night of 26 Sept 2009 a group of approximately 40 men armed with machetes and automatic weapons surrounded a building where the members of the AbM — Abahlali baseMjondolo (Zulu for “people based in shacks”) Youth League — were gathered.  In the battle that ensued a dozen people were injured and four members of AbM were killed.

When the police arrived at the scene of the battle, they arrested 8 members of AbM for the deaths of their comrades. The next morning the gang returned to Kennedy Road and looted two dozen shacks – the homes of leaders of the shack-dwellers governing council, the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC).  Local leaders of the ANC accompanied the gang as they looted the homes.  Police observed their actions but did not intervene.

“We are under attack,” the AbM and KRDC said in a press release. “We have been attacked physically with all kinds of weapons – guns and knives, even a sword. We have been driven from our homes and our community. The police did nothing to stop the attacks despite our calls for help.”

“What happened in Kennedy Road was a coup – a violent replacement of a democratically elected community organization. The ANC have taken over everything that we built in Kennedy Road,” the AbM said, charging local political leaders with seeking to evict the residents of Kennedy Road so as to develop the land for their personal profit.

The police subsequently arrested five members of the KRDC and charged the 13 activists with the murder of their colleagues killed by the ANC.

Bishop Phillip intervened in the affair, and spearheaded a campaign by democracy activists to free the “Kennedy Road 13”.  Following trial the 13 were acquitted, but charges have not yet been brought against those accused of organizing the attack.

The origins of this week’s fire is unknown and is remains under investigation, the Durban fire brigade has reported.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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