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Backed by strong support both domestically and from abroad, the South African shackdwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo continues to push for a full and independent enquiry into the violence suffered by the Kennedy Road settlement in September 2009, writes Bishop Rubin Phillip.

Over the past months we have continued to receive strong support for our intention to convene an independent commission of enquiry into the awful violence that was visited on the shack settlement of Kennedy Road in September 2009. Only such an enquiry will really help us all to sift truth from lies and establish a full picture of the events and their ongoing aftermath, as well as the full context and implications of what has happened. From community organisations and senior church leadership in this country, to community-based organisations in London and justice groups in congregations in Scotland, to senior international figures in the churches and the human rights scene, we have been moved and encouraged by their commitment to and active interest in finding the truth. These developments, together with the extraordinary support and wise counsel of many we are working with on the matter, keep us resolute and confident, confident not only that the commission process will happen but that when it does, it will deliver an outcome of unquestionable integrity. The necessary groundwork to facilitate the commission's work is under way.

Those of us who have followed the events closely and with a genuine concern for truth and justice know of course that there is a related court process unfolding. We have repeatedly and publicly expressed our deep alarm at the narrow and selective focus of that case and the blatant party political overtones, as well as the flagrant breaches of fair process in its conduct thus far. Nonetheless we have been careful not to infringe either the legal rights of the accused in the matter nor the necessary protections that apply to a matter that is sub judice. For the same reason, it is clear that no commission can begin hearing and evaluating evidence until that case finally comes to a conclusion.

Regrettably in this interregnum some, whose objective is to undermine and attack the shackdwellers' movement, Abahlali baseMjondolo, show no respect for these niceties and have indeed abused them to advance their own destructive agenda. Heinrich Bohmke's attack on our good friend and world-renowned historian Jeff Guy in an article carried by the Sunday Tribune (18 July 2010) is one recent example. That newspaper article draws on a longer piece that Bohmke has written – and had widely circulated – where I too come under sustained and dishonest attack. We have had meetings with counsel as well as the leadership of Abahlali baseMjondolo about the matter. We have considered the attacks from Bohmke and rejected them. It would be incorrect to engage in contesting the specifics. Firstly, key elements of the matter are sub judice. Secondly, Bohmke's intention has nothing to do with genuinely seeking truth and justice and we find no common ground with him in these tasks. Finally, the findings of a full and independent enquiry will provide us all with a sound basis of knowledge and truth.

We would like to conclude by reminding everyone that it was Abahlali baseMjondolo that first called for the full and independent commission of enquiry into these attacks. They said such an enquiry should: ‘in the interests of justice and truth, carefully and fairly investigate the actions of everyone, including the local and provincial ANC [African National Congress], the police, the intelligence services, the prosecutors, the courts and our movement, its various sub-committees and our supporters’.


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