Two young women were shot in the back in Cato Crest on Monday. They were both shot in the back while running away from the police. Nqobile Nzuza was shot in her 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. Police spokespeople Jay Naicker and Solomon Makgale have been telling the media all kinds of lies about these shootings.
We wish to make it clear that the police are lying just as they lied after the massacre on the mountain in Marikana last year.
The police have said that the protest organised by the Cato Crest comrades was not a protest – that it was a criminal act. They have said that the protestors ambushed them, fired shots and tried to pull them out of their car. They have said that they were ‘terrified’ and had to fire shots to save their lives. According to the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Mmamonnye Ngobeni the police have “a constitutional mandate to maintain law and order.” He has also said that, “The public is warned that we will use necessary force to execute this constitutional mandate.”
It is clear to use that our presence, as the autonomously organised 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. During the last two days our members have been described as a ‘violent mob’ and as ‘running amok’ in the media. 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. At the same time three activists from Cato Crest have been murdered since March and two others have been shot, and one remains are currently in hospital, yet the people responsible for this are allowed to show themselves as the custodians of ‘law and order’ and the Constitution.
It is clear to us that our rights under the Constitution do not count to the police. 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 ANC or the Land Invasions Unit demolishing our homes in violation of the Constitution, the PIE Act and court orders. The police have a long history of lying about both their attacks on us and their refusal to protect us from the ANC. They don’t even bother to say anything about their refusal to protect us from the illegal and unconstitutional attacks on our homes and communities by the Land Invasion Unit. They have been widely exposed as liars by church leaders, human rights organisations, journalists, academics and in court.
We have been operating in crisis mode since Monday morning. We have had to brief lawyers, go to court and visit the bereaved, the injured and the jailed. We have had to arrange solidarity actions, explain things to the media and meet with our members. But in the middle of all this we have taken time to meet with people who witnessed how Nqobile was shot in the back. Over three days we have listened very carefully to what they have said. We have drawn up this account of the events on the basis of what they have told us.
At around 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night people in Cato Crest started collecting material for the road blockade that they had planned for Monday morning. A black car drove past very slowly. It stopped, waited five minutes, left and then returned. A man got out. He asked the people if they knew him and said that he was Mzi Ngiba, the notorious gangster councillor in Cato Crest who has threatened a number of comrades with death and who usually moves around with his izinkabi (armed men, believed to be hit men). He warned them not to continue with their protest.
People began to gather at around 3:30 a.m. at Bellair Road, starting from where the former Jan Smuts Highway ends. They burnt some tyres. They then walked through Bellair Road towards the BP garage. Their intention at this stage was to go and collect other comrades from transit camps on the other side of the BP garage on Bellair Road. They were just walking down the road, singing. But they found that the police were waiting for them. The police had blocked Bellair Road next to the garage. The police also positioned themselves behind the protestors.
When comrades realised that the police were blocking their way they diverted their route to Harcombe Gardens. This road runs parallel to Bellair Road cutting into the big middle class houses full of light, clean and clear. They continued down this road with the aim of meeting other comrades from the transit camps on the other side. The police left Bellair Road where they had been waiting for the protestors and had blocked the road and they drove straight to a group of about 400 comrades. There were two vehicles. We have the registration numbers. They stopped abruptly, got out the vehicles and immediately drew their guns out. This was in front of 23 Harcombe Gardens. It was around 4:20 a.m. The police were about five meters from the protestors. There was no provocation to the police. When the police drew their guns people turned to run. One police officer shot Ngobile as she was running away. That police officer was the Cato Manor Station commissioner. He is known in the community. He came without his police uniform and was seen drawing his gun and shooting at Nqobile. This was witnessed at close range and the witnesses have no doubt that this was the man who shot Nqobile. They also have no doubt that without any provocation the police just started shooting at comrades. Everyone turned and ran. No one tried to resist. No one was armed. This is when Nqobile and Luleka were shot, from behind, while running away from the police. Their wounds clearly show that they were shot from behind.
The police are telling the media that there was only one police vehicle, that it was ambushed by the protestors who tried to pull the officers through the windows while there was the sound of shots firing. This whole story is a lie. It is not an exaggeration or a misunderstanding. It is a lie. 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.
Neither Nqobile nor Luleka or anyone else fired shots at the police. None of the protestors were armed. If they were the police would have arrested them or provided some evidence on this allegation. The protestors collected cartridges from the police guns as evidence. The police have no evidence at all to support their claim that they were shot at. It is a lie.
After the shooting the police vehicles moved to Wiggans Road, out of the view of the protestors.
Later on when the protestors started to regroup they were shocked to see that the windows of one of the police vehicles were now broken. They are sure that, after the shooting, the police broke the windows themselves while they were in Wiggans Road. There was no broken glass or stones on the Road at 23 Harcombe Gardens.
Around two hours after the shooting the Station Commissioner came back in a police uniform and escorted by police officers. He pretended to have just arrived on the scene and started asking people what had happened. Some of the women became very angry. They started pulling him and demanding that he stop lying. Some wanted to beat him. They were very angry. They had seen him shooting at their neighbours and their comrades. They had seen him murder Nqobile by shooting her in the back as she was running away. But he had a heavy escort of police officers and they rushed him into a police vehicle. He was not harmed.
Bandile Mdlalose arrived on the scene between 6:30 and 7:00.a.m. S’bu Zikode and other comrades from Abahlali baseMjondolo branches in other settlements arrived on the scene at around 8:00 a.m.
At around 9:00 a.m. Bandile participated in a march to KwaKito (the Cato Manor police station) to protest against the killing. At this time people also pulled branches and tyres 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 into the shacks and shooting them as they tried to hide. The television footage also shows the police violently breaking up this march. 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. 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 much as 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’ – 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. There had been big road blockades, with hundreds of people, around the city on Thursday and Friday last week. We had made it clear that our protest would continue because there had been no answer to the memoranda delivered on our march on the City Hall on 16 September, a march of thousands of comrades from around Durban and as far as Howick and Port Shepstone.
The police were waiting for us and they shot us without warning or provocation. They shot to kill. They shot to teach us a lesson. That lesson is that we must be good girls and boys, that we must know our place, that we must not question the ANC, that we must accept shack life, transit camps, evictions that leave us homeless and forced removal to the human dumping grounds. 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 ‘go back to Lusikisiki,’ back to ‘where you came from,’ the ones that are supposed to be moved to the human dumping grounds in the middle of nowhere. We are not supposed to be occupying land and protesting in the part of the city that was once reserved for the whites and is now reserved for the rich. We are not supposed to be able to go into the city centre in our thousands and to block roads around the city in our hundreds. We are not supposed to be able to think for ourselves, organise ourselves and speak for ourselves. We are supposed to remain under the NGOs and the ruling party.
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 lead 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 then 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 struggles 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.
Update One: At about 4pm on Tuesday Ngiba and Willies Mchunu came to visit Nqobile’s family and started offering funeral arrangements and even the use of a car from now to the date of the funeral. Nqobile’s aunty is clear that they must refuse Ngiba’s money and his hypocrisy. Comrades say that as soon as Ngiba arrived the family and everybody else cried. And they say that people are asking how Ngiba still has the guts to put his feet in that family. They say that he was sweared and embarrassed in front of the Minister. However the family is divided on the matter of the Mchunu’s offer. Of course we will respect their choice.
Update Two: A delegation from the movement was able to briefly see Bandile Mdlalose in Westville prison yesterday. It was not the day of visiting but we were able to drop off some things for Bandile People in the prison have seen her on the front page of Isolezwe and it was clear that she being held in high respect by prisoners and warders. She was calm and strong, a leader. She had not been beaten which is a relief. Some of us were also able to see her again today. Today the warders were very hostile to us. They even made sure that we had no pen and paper before we could see her and watched our discussion very closely. Clearly they have been warned to watch Bandile and her visitors carefully. The free Bandile Mdlalose campaign continues. It is moving from Durban to iRhini, Harare, London and New York. We all say ‘Free Bandile and arrest the killers, the shooters, the beaters and the evictors’.
Update Three: There was a road blockade this morning organised by the Kennedy Road comrades. There were two demands. 1. Free Bandile Mdlalose. 2. The City must reply to our memoranda from the march on the City Hall on 16 September. All decisions to blockade roads are taken at branch level. Other branches have indicated that there will be further blockades and that they will continue until these two demands are met.
The stakes have never been higher (and our need for your support has never been greater).
For over two decades, Truthout’s journalists have worked tirelessly to give our readers the news they need to understand and take action in an increasingly complex world. At a time when we should be reaching even more people, big tech has suppressed independent news in their algorithms and drastically reduced our traffic. Less traffic this year has meant a sharp decline in donations.
The fact that you’re reading this message gives us hope for Truthout’s future and the future of democracy. As we cover the news of today and look to the near and distant future we need your help to keep our journalists writing.
Please do what you can today to help us keep working for the coming months and beyond.