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Corruption Watch is one of more than 100 civil society organisations which have supported a letter from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (Seri) of South Africa, to various members of the government, including National Assembly speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, justice minister Ronald Lamola, police minister Bheki Cele, and the Presidency, among others, on behalf of human rights organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo. The letter was sent in September 2022.

The letter, which is signed by Seri executive director Nomzamo Zondo, condemns the government for allowing the targeting of Abahlali baseMjondolo human rights defenders, and calls for urgent national intervention and for investigations into the spate of attacks on and protection of Abahlali baseMjondolo members at risk.

“For the past 17 years, members of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Abahlali), the largest social movement representing the interests of shack dwellers and the poor in South Africa, has been systematically targeted with harassment, repression, and assassination for advocating for access to land, adequate housing, basic services and for the dignity of informal settlement residents.” Zondo wrote. Unlawful police raids, coordinated mob attacks, fake criminal charges, and targeted assassinations by hitmen are just some of the outrages that have been aimed at the organisation’s members.

“On at least one occasion – the killing of Thuli Ndlovu – two councillors of the African National Congress (ANC) were found to be behind the attacks and were convicted in 2016. In other killings, local ANC leaders have also been implicated.”

Read the letter below, or download it from the link beneath the document.

Politically-driven violence and harassment

Since 2009, at least 24 leaders of the movement have been threatened and killed, said Abahlali deputy president Mqapheli Bonono, delivering a statement on 3 October before the 51st session of the UN Human Rights Council.

“I address you today with all the pain I carry from South Africa as the Deputy President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a social movement of shack dwellers fighting for the right to housing, land, and dignity of the poor,” said Bonono. “It is my colleague, Lindokuhle Mnguni, the chairperson of the eKhenana Commune, who should be addressing you. Last month, Lindokuhle was gunned down for fighting for land and equality in South Africa. He was 28 years old. In the last six months, our movement has had to bury four of our members murdered by the police and suspected members of the ruling party.”

Mnguni was targeted because his activism exposed and challenged a dangerous underworld of housing corruption in the area which implicated police officials as well as local politicians connected to the ANC, the civil society letter stated. “His commitment to defending the human rights of shack dwellers throughout the country and being a voice of the poor has cost him his life.”

Watch Bonono’s address below: