Amnesty blasts SA government

2009-12-19 00:00

ANGLICAN Bishop Rubin Phillip has backed Amnesty International’s claims that South Africa has failed to investigate the human rights abuses at the Kennedy Road informal settlement in Durban.

Phillip has worked closely with the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement, who fight for the rights of shack dwellers.

In a statement, Amnesty International criticised the government’s failure to investigate murders, violence and other atrocities the community has faced in the past year.

Amnesty International said besides the lack of a proper investigation, the activities of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali) and the affiliated Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) have been disrupted by the violence and the lives of leaders and supporters placed at risk.

Thabani Ndlovu and Thokozani Mnguni were stabbed to death during a youth camp at the settlement. Other people were injured when about 40 men carrying assegais, knobkierries and guns stormed into the premises on September 26.

Eight people were subsequently arrested and have pending court cases. Six residents are still being held by police even though no charges have been laid.

Phillip and the movement made headlines recently when they questioned the short visiting hours given to them to pray for Abahlali baseMjondolo members in police custody.

Amnesty International said that despite calls since October for an independent and impartial commission of inquiry into the circumstances and extent of the violence and its aftermath, nothing has been done.

Phillip agreed with Amnesty International and said there is an urgent need for an independent investigation into the violence.

“The community continues to be divided, with residents feeling lost because their leadership has been chased away,” he said.

He said church leaders also asked the government for an independent investigation, but this was never addressed.

“It’s important that the truth be established. Abahlali baseMjondolo feel they are being rubbished,” Phillip added.

He said the denial of access to Abahlali baseMjondolo members at Sydenham police station is an example of the abuse Amnesty International are concerned about.

“We can’t even pray for them; this is abuse. These people have suffered enough,” he said.

ANC provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala said it is wrong of Amnesty International to suggest the government is not helping the residents.

He said residents have been engaged about housing issues and have been offered alternatives by local government.

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