A South African court has found a police officer guilty of shooting dead 17-year-old protester, Nqobile Nzuza. The judgement sends a strong message to all police officers who act on the instructions of politicians to brutalize unarmed citizens demanding their rights.
On 30 September 2013, Nqobile Nzuza was murdered by the South African police in Cato Crest. She was shot from behind while participating in a protest organised around a road blockade. She was seventeen years old when she was murdered. The protest that she was participating in had been organised by residents of the Marikana Land Occupation after repeated evictions, always illegal and often violent. Nqobile was the third person to lose her life in the struggle for land and against repression from the ruling party and the state in Cato Crest in 2013. Thembinkosi Qumbelo was assassinated on 15 March 2013 and Nkululeko Gwala was assassinated on 26 June 2013.
As usual the police told incredible lies immediately after the murder of Nqobile. As usual many newspapers published those lies without making an effort to discover the truth or even print the testimony of eyewitnesses. The police claimed that they had fired in self-defence as they feared for their lives when confronted by a violent crowd.
As usual the police also lied in court. They claimed that the bullets were fired into the ground, and then ricocheted into Nzuza’s body. Ballistics evidence presented in court, however, did not support this claim. The court found that the cause of Nzuza’s death was traceable to the gun belonging to the accused officer. That bullet did not have signs of ricocheting off the ground. In other words, as participants in the protest attested back in 2013, live ammunition was fired directly into the crowd.
The judgement also makes a mockery of the claim that the police had acted in “self-defence.” Nzuza was unarmed when she was shot. She was shot in the back, which shows that she was running away from the police, rather than presenting a clear and present danger to them. The judgment notes further that the protesters, prior to the shooting, diverted their protest route away from the police to avoid confrontation. The departure of two police inyalas – large military vehicles – on the scene not long before the murder offers further evidence that there was no violence from the protestors. The inyalas would not have left the scene if there was a violent protest underway.
The police officer’s bail was set at R5000. His sentencing will begin on 7 October 2017.
As with the conviction of two ANC councillors for the assassination of Thuli Ndlvou, who was murdered in KwaNdengezi on 29 September 2014, this conviction was won as a result of sustained protest and engagement from below by an organised movement. It is clear to us that the only way that we will have any chance of defeating the politic of violence, and the gangster state that drives this politic, is by sustained organisation and mobilisation. As people who are impoverished and black our lives count for nothing to the police, the ruling party and the elites in this society. We can only stop these murders by insisting that our lives count, and putting the full force of our struggle behind this demand. Our struggle is for land, housing and dignity but it is also for life.
Abahlali welcomes the judgement. The judgement sends a message to all police officers who act on the instructions of the politicians. We call it “political policing,” when the police act on the directions of politicians, instead of doing their jobs to protect the safety of ordinary people. We know, as a movement, that the family will find some closure for their pain, although they are still waiting for sentencing. We appreciate that the judiciary has shown that it is still acting within its mandate despite ongoing pressures and intimidation.
But we have lost a lot of comrades. We have only won justice for Nqobile Nzuza and Thuli Ndlovu. Many comrades who have fallen in the struggle have not found justice. We are aware of the global trend of police violence. Our comrades in countries like Brazil and America are also struggling for their lives against police violence. In South Africa police violence, as well as the violence of the land invasion units, municipal security, the red ants and party thugs and assassins is on the rise.
We still believe that it is society that has to work tirelessly for justice to be done. Amandla must be restored to the people, which is the only place where it rightfully belongs. We have the power to make the kind of society we want to see, and the kind of institutions we want to have. The power is with the people and we will build it and use it to insist that our lives must count the same as all other lives. Our movement is growing in size and power and we will do everything that we can to ensure that there will be no impunity for repression.
We salute the courage of the residents of the Marikana Land Occupation who, after five years of struggle, continue to hold the land first occupied in March 2013.
We thank Abahlali members for attending the trial and for being back in court today. Nqobile’s family also wishes to express their thanks to Abahlali for their support.
S’bu Zikode 083 547 0474
Blessing Nyuswa 084 695 3205
Sbonelo Mpeku 078 409 8733