22 August 2022
The Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network (SouthernDefenders) wishes to express its pain and outrage at the gruesome murder of Lindokuhle Mnguni, the chairperson of the eKhenana Commune and one of the frontline leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo, who was shot several times at his home, at around 01:30 in the morning of 20 August 2022. As SouthernDefenders we urge the South African authorities to carry out immediate, thorough, and impartial investigations into the killing of Mnguni, the chairperson of the eKhenana Commune, and take urgent measures to protect all human rights defenders at risk in South Africa.
We unequivocally stand in active solidarity with Abahlali BaseMjondolo, one of the largest grassroots movements in the region, which promotes and protects land and housing rights for some of the most vulnerable groups in South Africa. Mnguni who Abahlali baseMjondolo describe as “a powerful intellectual with a mind like a razor”, joins the list of other members of the eKhenana Commune who were brutally assassinated in the past 5 months for resisting unlawful evictions and protecting the rights of the poor. On 8 March 2022, Ayanda Ngila, who was the deputy chairperson of eKhenana Commune, was shot and killed by four armed men and on 5 May 2022, Nokuthula Mabaso, was shot 5 times in front of her young children, where the killers attacked her from the back and turned her over to shoot her in the breast and her stomach.
Since the eKhenana branch of Abahlali baseMjondolo was established in 2018, members of the Community have been subjected to several attacks by both State and non-State actors. This has included unlawful evictions, despite standing court orders preventing this, the destruction of their properties, judicial persecution through fabricated criminal charges and the killing of their members. Mnguni, who was only 28 years old at the time of his death, was instrumental in establishing the eKhenana Commune, which is named after the biblical land of ‘Canaan’, seeing it as a place “representing their aspirations, with the needs of every resident catered for”. As their way of living, members of the community carry out sustainable programmes that are aimed at protecting human rights and eradicating poverty, such as the food sovereignty programme.
In his interview with the New Frame, Mnguni reflected on his vision for eKhenana “As young people with historical poverty attached to our names, we need to start promoting the concept of developing practical pathways that challenge the corporate-controlled food system based on capitalism and tackle food inequality at its roots. This will enable many South Africans affected by poverty with limited access to information and healthy choices to develop customised alternatives that could change our relationship with food sovereignty and sustainability.”
As SouthernDefenders, we reassert our support for and uncompromising solidarity with the Abahlali baseMjondolo, against the increased targeting of their members and the attempt to silence the organization for fighting for a just and equal society. Since the movement was formed in 2005, a total of 24 members have lost their lives because of the organization’s commitment to fighting for the right to land, housing, and dignity of poor people.
SouthernDefenders condemns the killing of Lindokuhle Mnguni and the continuing attacks against members of Abahlali baseMjondolo. We urge the South African authorities to carry out robust investigations into these attacks and take holistic measures to protect human rights defenders who are promoting and defending human rights in South Africa.
We also wish to express our heartfelt condolences to his family and members of Abahlali baseMjondolo. His commitment to fighting for the rights of the poor and vulnerable will always be remembered, and more importantly, inspire us all.
For more information, contact: Simphiwe Sidu, SAHRDF Coordinator, +27 76 675 8168 / firstname.lastname@example.org