An Open Letter to Jacob Zuma

In one of the poorest shack settlements in Durban, South Africa, armed thugs have been reported to have killed settlement residents and destroyed their home in a coordinated and racially motivated attack. Local police appear to be entirely complicit in these attacks, as do local members of the African National Congress. This petition asks President Jacob Zuma to intervene directly, and to remind him and those involved in this violence that the world watches their actions.

We the undersigned are scholars, activists, supporters and veterans of the struggle for a free South Africa from around the world. We celebrated the end of apartheid with you, and have worked with you for the building of a genuinely democratic South Africa.

It is for this reason that we write to you with grave concern following recent events at the Kennedy Road Shack Settlement in Durban. Reports from the informal settlement of seven thousand people indicate that horrors reminiscent of Apartheid's darkest years are currently being perpetrated - armed thugs have killed members of the freely elected local development committee and destroyed their houses, with slogans dripping with the language of ethnic cleansing, such as "The AmaMpondo are taking over Kennedy. Kennedy is for the AmaZulu".

With these words of hate, members of the development committee have been hunted and, in at least one case, killed. What appals us most about these attacks is that they appear to be happening with the support of local police and politicians. At the time of writing, reports indicate that local ANC branch executives and members of the Sydenham police force are in attendance, and doing nothing to halt the ongoing violence in the settlement. Further, it appears that members of the development committee, some of whom had been absent from the settlement during the attacks, have been targeted and arrested by the Sydenham police force.


Some of the signatories to this letter have personally experienced illegal political harassment by the Sydenham police in the past, and have witnessed their ruthless political intolerance towards the Abahlali baseMjondlo Shackdwellers Movement, of which the Kennedy Road Development Committee is a part. Many more of us have had the great pleasure of meeting leaders from the shackdwellers' movement. All of us have been deeply impressed by the deep democratic and progressive commitments of the residents of Kennedy Road.

Under such circumstances, it is entirely inappropriate to rely on the Sydenham police to enforce the rule of law, and we appeal to your office to demand:

*an end to the violence in the shacks
*an end to arbitrary detention of innocent people
*an independent and transparent enquiry into the relationship between the Sydenham police and the continued violence
*an independent and transparent enquiry into the relationship between the violence and senior members of the local ANC branch present at the scene
*the arrest and prosecution of those responsible for these horrific attacks
*full restitution to those harmed in the violence
*and an undertaking that these tragic events be not used as a pretext for further hardship enforced on South Africa's poorest citizens.

We have witnessed the great promise of South African democracy, and we hope that you will bring the full force of your office to protect it in this dark hour. As once before, the world is watching South Africa, to see how  democracy can triumph over fear.



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