2019: ANOTHER YEAR OF THE GUN IN KZN, AND LESSONS FOR 2020

On Wednesday 11 December six people in the Msomi home at Hammarsdale, near Durban, died, when a group of gunmen surrounded the house and opened fire on those inside it.  Similar attacks in peri-urban and traditional rural areas are not unusual. While most attacks on farmers and on politicians receive media coverage few of the murders or ordinary folk do. That it is possible for well-armed men to operate with impunity in these areas points to serious problems with policing, including intelligence, at local station and Cluster area.  These killers have access to a range of guns and seem to have no problem acquiring ammunition.  The bodies of Mhlengezi Khumalo, killed in an apparent political hit in Pietermaritzburg in February., and Gundane Mthethwa, killed in the reign of terror in eMpembeni near Richards Bay the same month, were riddled with an estimated two dozen or more bullet wounds.  There have been some positive developments in national and provincial policing in 2019 and priorities for 2020 must include improved rural safety and an intensified clampdown on illicit guns – which should start with vastly improved policing of the taxi industry.

The taxi industry, hitmen and guns

The taxi industry is associated with the deployment of hit men, including for political assassinations. It may also employ armed guards who are not necessarily PSIRA compliant. It is a threat to state security.   Many police members allegedly operate taxis or receive protection money from one or other faction, and some powerful operators are well connected politically. Convictions are few and far between, including when buses are attacked.   Despite claims by the Department of Transport that it regulates the industry without fear or favour there is a conspicuous lack of transparency in its operations, including those relating to the implementation of a new public transport system in Durban.

Mandeni was one of various areas in which taxi violence claimed several lives. In June, Siyabonga Mbonambi who had, for years, played a prominent role in a local taxi association, was gunned down.  In 2010 he had survived an attack by armed men at his rural home in which a brother and a toddler nephew died. Nothing has changed in the past decade. Those allegedly behind the violence then were linked to a long-distance association accused of operating illegally in his association’s route, with evidence of complicity on the part of certain police. The present context is one in which there are tensions around leadership within Mbonambi’s association. An informer, who was subsequently killed, named the hitmen and alleged they had been sent by a taxi rival. The only witness to the killing was Siyabonga’s brother, Sam, whose life has been in great danger since the murder. Investigators claimed that they could not trace the killers, despite reports that they were seen visiting contacts in the Mandeni area. Sam gave up his job and moved around. He was not at his home when police arrived there in September looking for him. They claimed an informer had linked him to a crime.  Only when pressed to do so did they identify themselves properly, and advised that they had come from Empangeni, a distance away. They had not notified the local Sundumbili station of their presence, which is against SAPS regulations. Sam subsequently reported to Empangeni SAPS together with his lawyer; he was not charged.  On 28 November, when Sam was at his own home, gunmen apparently sent to kill him murdered his fourteen-year old nephew who presumably saw them. At another Mbonambi home a short distance away, another nephew of Sam and Siyabonga was murdered on 14 December by men who appear to have been looking for another close relative of theirs who has also been threatened with death. The police acted swiftly and NIU members arrested the alleged hitmen at a hostel at Umlazi. Sam has finally been placed in Witness Protection.  At the end of December, one of the alleged killers of Siyabonga was arrested near Mandeni.  It is now up to investigators and prosecution to ensure they build a strong case.

The shooting of Thabiso Zulu

In 2018 the Public Protector (PP) instructed the Minister of Police to provide protection for whistle-blower and ANC stalwart Thabiso Zulu whose life has been in grave danger since 2017,  Despite two State security threat assessments confirming that Zulu’s life is in grave danger the Minister blocked the protection and referred the PP’s report for court review. Amidst continuing threats, Zulu has continued to spend most of his time locked away and moving only with people who try to protect him. Appeals to, among others, President Ramaphosa and parliament have fallen on deaf ears.   

On 25 October Zulu was warned by a security industry person that there were plans to kill him in within days. The next night he was shot and injured walking with a friend near where he was staying in Pietermaritzburg. Handguns and a rifle were used but, by the next morning, the Mountain Rise SAPS, an historically problematic station, had not secured the crime scene nor retrieved the cartridges. Why did police intelligence not have, or use, that information to pre-empt an attack?

Loss of confidence in DPP’s office

Following a failure by local police to arrest anyone for a spate of killings in eMpembeni, the office of the national commissioner arranged for a new team to report to the Cluster Office. Arrests for three separate murders followed swiftly.  Accomplices initially charged indicated that they would turn state witness, made statements, and were placed in Witness Protection, and the arrests of two members of the widely feared N family followed. Petitions with hundreds of signatures were presented to court opposing bail. The investigators did commendable work, even risking their own lives in what is an extremely dangerous area. However, in a shock decision seven months after the arrests a senior prosecutor declined to prosecute the N family members on the grounds that the two state witnesses claimed to have made statements under duress. This appears a blatant lie because they had been examined on more than one occasion by a District Surgeon, and appeared in court, and had never mentioned any abuse. What is truly incredible is that charges have not been re-instated  against the two men who had themselves faced charges, and had also perjured themselves – raising serious questions about whether people facing such charges can now avoid prosecution by turning state witness and later retracing their statements.  Community members have completely lost confidence in the prosecution service, especially as a very wealthy member of the N family had boasted during his bail application that he enjoyed a good relationship with two prosecutors, including one working in the DPP’s office.  A climate of intense fear prevails, once again, in eMpembeni,

Lessons for 2020

Rural safety of all, farmers and residents of traditional land alike, must be a priority in 2020, starting with a drastic improvement in the gathering and use of intelligence, and the monitoring by management of stations in which gunmen appear to operate with impunity.  Road-blocks of taxis, and investigations of all those involved in guarding them, could impact on the circulation of illegal guns (if no warning is given). The Firearms Unit of the SAPS should be strengthened with further personnel with proven clean records. Prosecutors also need to work with, and guide, investigators from an early stage, and not wait until investigations are nearing completion.

Note

See www.violencemonitor.com for reports on eMpembeni and Thabiso Zulu (2018/2019) and re: taxi violence. 2010 report ‘The attack on the Mbonambi family, Dendethu : An Indictment of the failure of the SAPS and KZN Transport to enforce the rule of law’

A TRIBUTE TO JOHN MOTLOLI, UNSUNG HERO OF THE STRUGGLE FOR JUSTICE FOR VICTIMS OF THE APARTHEID SECURITY APPARATUS

August 2019 saw the passing away of an unsung hero of the struggle for democracy and justice in South Africa, John Motlalepula Motloli.  As a serving apartheid era police member Motloli used his job as a cover to provide invaluable assistance to the ANC and to  families of MK operatives who had disappeared, or who had died at the hands of the security police, and to expose the truth of what had happened to them.  Despite being described as a ‘pillar to the new dispensation’, who ‘worked for the country’,  Motloli never received any recognition for his work from the ANC, possibly because the type of information he uncovered would have alarmed  ambitious comrades with skeletons in their own closets. Instead of accolades, Motloli, like many other former long serving black African South African Police( SAP) members, remained side-lined for promotion – yet another casualty in the new government’s inexcusable failure to transform the apartheid era police force.

Motloli was born in Orlando in 1947 but after the death of his parents in 1957  he was sent to live with family members in Mount Fletcher (Eastern Cape) where he herded their cattle.  Only in 1961 did he start primary school, but he was so intelligent that he passed the first two years combined with flying colours and despite having skipped what were then Standards 4 and 5 came first in Standard 6 (Grade 8).  However, there was no money for him to continue high school, so he spent a period working on the mines. A friend persuaded him to return to school and, at the age of 25, he matriculated at Moroko High School. After working for the Chamber of Mines for three years he joined the SAP in 1975, telling friends that the move might protect him from being targeted for his anti-apartheid sentiments.

By the 1980s he was working as a detective at the KwaDabeka SAP near Pinetown, Natal.  His investigations in the latter 1980s into state sponsored violence in the townships was to lay the foundations for his later exposure of the forces behind this violence. During his investigations into the notorious A Team who terrorised Chesterville township he discovered that they were being armed by a KwaZulu Government Deputy Minister, Samuel Jamile. With KwaDabeka colleagues he investigated Jamile for killing several Clermont residents opposed to the incorporation of the township into KwaZulu. With threats to the lives of the investigators, it was decided to hand the docket to an outside team headed by Frank Dutton and his partner Wilson Magadla, a ‘homeboy’ of Motloli’s. The Dutton team secured the conviction of Jamile and followed it with convictions of those, including police, implicated in the 1988 Trust Feed massacre. Motloli, who had also worked with Dutton, was later to join his Goldstone team of investigators. From there, in 1994, he transferred to the Special Investigation unit investigating Third Force activities headed by Jan D’Oliviera, and subsequently became involved in TRC investigations.

However, Motloli had been working on police involvement in disappearances and deaths of operative such as Stanley Bhila, Phumezo Nxiweni and Dion Cele, under the cover of other investigative work, since the late 1980s. Some of the TRC exposures were the result of his early work, which had been spurred by appeals from families of exiles who had disappeared. Cases he investigated included those in which police informers had primed grenades for use by operatives, or police had wrongly claimed that those they had shot had been robbers killed in self-defence. He was a man of few words whose quiet, unassuming manner won the confidence and trust of people who were prepared to provide information, including askaris (some of whom he assisted).  Although he was to win the confidence of some black African security police members, his investigations made him extremely unpopular with their colleagues who threatened and insulted him but, after 1990, found it more difficult to act against him, especially when he worked for the Goldstone or d’Oliviera teams.  He was a loving family man who went to great lengths to shield them from this work and when, during this period, he sensed a threat to them in the township in which they lived, he moved them to a formerly white suburban area.

Through the leads he had followed up, and the relationships he had established he knew about some of the Vlakplaas operations, including those linked to the C10 unit active in what is now KZN before they were exposed publicly. These included the 1986 killings of a group of operatives known as the Quarry Road Four, and four men in Chesterville. The late Colonel Andy Taylor and other security police were later to apply to the TRC for amnesty for the latter killings. Other disappearances and deaths for which he had done the groundwork included those of MK members Ntombi Khubeka who had been abducted by an askari from her KwaMashu home on the instructions of Vlakplaas C Section and the Natal Security police, and Portia Ndwandwe, who had been abducted from Swaziland. Their bodies were exhumed during TRC investigations as were those of some of the other missing activists. Although he had done his best to assist the Phewas of Lamontville, the bodies of Sobho Phewa and Musa Phewa, who were abducted from the township in 1987 were never found.

It was Motloli who exposed the truth about the disappearance in 1990 of Operation Vula operatives Mbuso Shabalala and Charles Ndaba after the security police spread false rumours about Ndaba having betrayed Shabalala. Although the TRC found that their bodies had been dumped in the Thukela River mouth, Motloli had continued to follow up information from a knowledgeable man he worked with in the 2000s who died after being knocked down by a vehicle, apparently deliberately.

After leaving the TRC Motloli spent several more years in the SAPS, including in Crime Intelligence.  However, he was utterly frustrated because while he remained a warrant officer the command structure to which he reported included former security policemen who had been promoted well above him. Academic research in the 1990s showed this type of skewed promotion was commonplace. The severe stress was impacting negatively on Motloli’s health, and he took early retirement. He was not the only competent, highly experienced black African police member to do so, for the same reasons.  Motloli’s exceptional work was a product of his support for the liberation struggle, and it succeeded because he was an excellent investigator who knew how to follow up leads and win the confidence of informers, including those who had killed for apartheid. Post liberation policing could have been very different had the new government recognised, rewarded, and fully supported the work of Motloli and colleagues with similar skills.

THE INGONYAMA TRUST : DEMOCRACY’S BANTUSTAN LEGACY

It is ironic that some of the arguments used by defenders of the Ingonyama Trust differ little from those used by the apartheid government to justify the homelands policy.  In his recent article in the Daily Maverick Mbongeleni Mazibuko unwittingly falls into this trap by drawing on discredited history and by his misuse of concepts such as culture and tradition.  He also conveniently side-steps the gross infringements of the land rights of rural residents by the Trust, and by some traditional leaders.

Most of the Ingonyama Trust land is that which constituted the KwaZulu bantustan, some of which, such as southern and far northern areas of KZN, was never part of the historic Zulu kingdom.  From its heartland north of the Thukela river, King Shaka deployed his well-trained warriors to areas much further afield to raid for cattle. In the process, people either dispersed or, in some cases, bowed to the use of force and became client chiefdoms supplying Shaka with cattle, and guarding his far- flung cattle outposts.  He did not have the political or military capacity to incorporate these areas into the kingdom. With his enemies, including within his own family, multiplying, Shaka’s position became increasingly precarious. Accompanied by armed traders from Port Natal he had vanquished his main opponents, the Ndwandwe, but internally the powerful Qwabe grouping was posing an increasing threat. This threat may have been one of the reasons that he decided to build his new homestead further away from them, at KwaDukuza (just south of the Thukela river) shortly before his ten-year reign ended with his assassination. His half-brother, Dingane, was unable to retain the type of military control Shaka had over his own subjects and the client chiefdoms outside of the kingdom, so many fled the kingdom to what was later to become the colony of Natal and others returned there from further afield.

The kingdom founded by Shaka was an amalgamation of discrete chiefdoms, and it was stratified according to historical and clan relationships to the king.  The lowest stratum comprising ‘outsider’ groupings, to which a derogatory label was applied, lived in the coastal areas or around the Thukela.  Excluded from politics, they provided menial labour and cattle tribute to the elites.  Falling into this category was the powerful Hlubi grouping who, posing an increasing threat to King Mpande, prudently migrated to the colony in 1848 to avoid the risk of an all-out war.

Contrary to what Mazibuko avers, it is  highly unlikely that the majority of the traditional leaders in what is now KZN are descendants of the clan-based groupings of the Zulu kingdom, which was itself subject to a divide-and-rule policy by the British after the Anglo-Zulu war of 1879. The forebears of many of today’s leaders had never been part of the kingdom and, in the colony, new chiefs were created by administrator Theophilus Shepstone when he found people living without any. Mission areas appointed their own. Chiefs were needed for the implementation of the indirect rule system – rule through chiefs – developed in what was then Natal, exported to other colonies, and further refined by the architects of apartheid.

The office of traditional leadership today is a product of colonialism and apartheid because, since the 19th century, chiefs have not been ‘chiefs by their people’. The general trend in pre-colonial times was for an unpopular chief to be deposed or killed – or people might simply migrate elsewhere. However, with indirect rule they became accountable to the government which paid their salaries and, pre-1994, would be deposed if they were not politically compliant.  Democracy and accountability are still absent in many traditional areas today and it has proven virtually impossible to get the government department responsible, COGTA, to take any action against leaders who abuse their positions, or even commit crimes.

While there is a tendency to see traditional leadership as some distinctly pan-African phenomenon, it is an office which exists, or has existed, in societies all over the world at a certain stage of state formation.  Many societies in Africa did not have this system of governance. While colonising governments used the position for their own purposes, the stance taken by post-liberation governments varied.  Most retained the position, but restricted incumbents to ceremonial and developmental roles, Uganda – which had historically included different kingdoms – restricted their powers drastically, and Tanzania abolished traditional leadership. Swaziland is probably the only country in Africa in which traditional leaders have more powers than they do in South Africa.  The office is not under threat since they are recognised in Chapter 12 of the Constitution. In the mid-1990s the ANC government, which was then divided over the subject, made a serious mistake by not insisting that the incumbents could not occupy both traditional and political offices (as in Botswana). Many have allowed themselves to be used as political tools, when they could have played a far more constructive role in their communities had they been above party politics.

There is probably no word which has been as badly abused in South Africa as ‘culture’. Drawing on the ideas of Scientific Racism embodied in what was termed ‘ethnos theory’ this term was used by the apartheid government to justify, and disguise the racial basis for, homelands. Culture is simply an analytical construct used to describe what people have in common such as shared norms, values, knowledge and beliefs, which are learned. Even within a group speaking a common language what is interpreted as its culture may be highly variable. These ideas change as the socio-economic structure of the society of which they are part does, as may traditions and customs embodying these ideas. While there are regional similarities, families are the custodians of customs, which may vary from one clan to another. Contemporary Zulu identity as it is portrayed today is a product of societal changes, especially economic and political, the 20th century. However, there is no single ‘Zulu’ identity in KZN, for many residents would identify with other historically-based groupings such as Bhaca, Hlubi, and Thonga, and others would emphasise their Ndwandwe roots (i.e. the enemies of the Zulu kingdom).

There is thus no historical basis for the privatisation of state land in the hands of the Zulu king who cannot be said to have ‘owned’ it in the past :  Contemporary ownership of land, focussing on commercial value,  should not be equated with ideas prevailing in the past when  it had very different meanings for the families who were living on it, based on intimate relationships between the living and the dead (buried on it), and the way in which these were related to the fertility of land (to meet subsistence needs).   King Zwelithini enjoys widespread support and respect in his own right – especially since he publicly distanced himself from party politics in 1994 –  not through his association with the Trust. The Board administering the trust, of which the king is the sole trustee, was appointed a few years after the Trust was established in April 1994. Prior to that it had been overseen by the king’s lawyer, the late Sdumo Mathe, with the Board taking over soon after Mathe’s untimely death. Calls to dismantle the Trust have nothing to do with a ‘clash of cultures’ but are rooted in economic realities. The Trust, through its Board,  not only contests the transfer to the government fiscus of mining royalties due to it, but acts as a virtual parallel government itself issuing leases which are often cloaked in secrecy, and which trample on the legally protected rights to the land, and the security, of those living on it.  As a result of the issuing of these leases people have lost the land they lived on, and used for subsistence, to mining companies or other business ventures. They may be removed, or face the threat of removal, from their land, as during apartheid years.  Their water becomes polluted and cattle become sick. In coal mining areas such as Somkele (near Mtubatuba) the rate of respiratory illnesses is extremely high and linked by locals to most deaths. In the kwaMzimela area homes and graves are blasted away by sand mining. There are many other examples, and despite the black empowerment rhetoric, it may be white businesspeople who benefit from Trust deals.

It is traditional leaders who give permission to the Trust to grant leases, regardless of the consequences for their subjects, who may not even know about them until they are told to move (as in eMpembeni)*._ The democratic government, which claims to represent ‘the people’, has dealt rural folk a further blow by passing legislation which will give even more powers to traditional leaders to enter into such agreements.  Not for nothing is these two pieces of legislation –  one of which amends the 2003 Act governing traditional leadership, and the other governing traditional (chiefs’) courts – referred to, with good reason, as the ‘bantustan bills’.  To avoid a further retreat into the past this legislation must be opposed at all costs.

*See other 2018 and 2019 reports on the Ingonyama Trust and on eMpembeni

Reference notes  : This report draws on a wide range of historical material,  including chapters in Duminy and Guest (eds) 1989 Natal and Zululand a New History;   Chapters in Carton, B, J Laband and J Sithole (eds) 2009 Zulu Identities; Laband J 2017 The Assassination King Shaka ; Wright J 2016 ‘Making Identities in the Thukela-Mzimvubu Region cc1770-1940 in Hamilton C and N Leibhammer Tribing and Untribing the Archive   

Other references include academic publications on culture, traditiion and traditional leadership. See , for example, Boonzaier E and J Sharp (eds) 1989  South African Keywords : Th uses and abuses of political concepts

DEMOCRATIC ELECTIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA : FROM 1994 TO 2019

For the first time in South Africa’s history, people of all races queued to exercise their democratic right to vote in the watershed elections of April 1994.  How do our recent 8 May elections compare with those of a quarter of century ago, and others which followed them, in terms of being ‘free and fair’. Did the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) behave in a nonpartisan, professional manner?  Were political parties able to campaign freely? Were voters able to vote for the party of their choice without fear of intimidation, or retribution if they were deemed to have voted for the ‘wrong’ party.  Comparisons between 1994 and 2019, and the years in between, show that we have indeed made tremendous progress in the past twenty-five years..

The four-year negotiation ride to the 1994 elections had been a bumpy one. As the election date approached the IFP which, together with its right-wing allies, had been demanding increased devolution of powers to provinces, was refusing to participate, and warned that it was entering a stage of ‘resistance politics’. The political violence of the 1980s and early 1990s escalated to unprecedented levels and the threat of civil war loomed. By the end of March 1994 a minimum of 1 149 people had died, mainly in KZN and to a lesser extent, in what is now Gauteng in the first three month of the year. When the IFP announced, on 19 April, that it would participate the country heaved a collective sigh of relief. Although the vast majority of the three hundred plus April deaths in KZN occurred before that announcement, and despite the introduction of a State of Emergency, attacks, including on party agents who were canvassing, continued until the eleventh hour. For logistical reasons the elections in KZN were run over three days and, relative to the mayhem that had preceded them, and despite a great deal of intimidation, they were reasonably peaceful. 

However, there were glaring irregularities and a great deal of evidence of rigging. Prince Sifiso Zulu, who was acting in a co-ordinating, administrative capacity for the IEC in Empangeni, found himself under siege and fled to Durban with a large pile of incriminating documents. An internal IEC memorandum recommending that the elections in the northern part of the province be declared null and void was ignored. It is known that the votes in some areas were not even tallied, and it was widely believed that the outcome of the election stemmed from a political settlement.

The violence continued post-election, especially in northern and lower south coast areas, leading to the first local government elections, held in most parts of the country in 1995, being scheduled for 1996 in KZN. These elections proceeded relatively peacefully, due mainly to saturation deployment of security forces, including the SANDF.  However, large numbers of people were unable to participate because they had been displaced from their homes by the violence.  Amidst numerous allegations of voting irregularities and gross intimidation, especially in rural areas, the elections appeared more free and fair in some areas than in others.

These patterns of widespread intimidation and violence, including deaths, in the run up to elections, were to continue through the 1999 (another violent year) and 2004 national, and 2000 and 2006 local government, elections.  Allegations of voter fraud generally decreased with successive elections.  Rural areas remained extremely vulnerable to violence. Election days, while not incident free, were largely peaceful.  Amidst allegations of partisan and inadequate policing, party agents in rural areas were also vulnerable, fearing to remain at their stations after dark unless there was increased police presence.  KZN Monitor reports for these periods detail a litany of complaints of threat and intimidation, and numerous calls for police intervention.

A consistently dangerous area was Macambini (near Mandeni), where a notorious traditional leader and gross human rights violator continued to threaten and intimidate opposition party candidates (one obtained an interdict) and even IEC officials.  In the 2006 local government elections ANC candidate Sibongile Zungu was threatened with death, and allegations of voting irregularity in her ward were documented in four affidavits; the ANC declined to act, or to offer any protection to Mrs Zungu.  Her home was subsequently razed to the ground. The family, miraculously, escaped death, but lost everything.

By 2009 the situation leading up to, and during, the national elections had improved, but there still numerous documented incidents of threat and intimidation, including against COPE members after its split from ANC.   2011 saw the emergence of the NFP which split from the IFP and a period of conflict between the two parties continued for a few years. In the run up to the local government elections that year two prominent ANC eThekwini councillors – Sbusiso Sibiya and Wiseman Mshibe  – were assassinated, and the elections themselves were marked by intra-ANC conflict over nominations and alleged manipulation of party lists.  Those irregularly nominated included the current mayor of Durban, Zandile Gumede.

The 2014 national elections saw further improvement. However, there were at least twenty murders (excluding Glebelands deaths) in the seven months preceding the August 2016 local government elections. Fourteen of these deaths appeared linked to contestation along factional lines in the ANC, and government corruption.  Prior to these elections protest actions had become increasingly violent and destructive

Although politically-linked murders have continued, canvassing by party officials in the run up to the recent elections has proceeded smoothly.  One exception was a brawl between IFP and ANC representatives in the Lindelani area near Shakaville township in KwaDukuza, a historically volatile site where an ANC supporter was killed on 2014 election day. There was one reported death during the recent elections, that of an IFP supporter in eMatimatolo (another closely contested area), who was allegedly shot by an ANC supporter. A NFPs supporter was injured.

It was violent and destructive protest action which replaced inter-party tensions and conflict during the recent elections, and was sufficiently disruptive to interfere with voting in some areas because of damage to infrastructure and the blocking of roads.

Minor glitches were reported, but the IEC must be congratulated for running substantially free and fair elections. Good planning around police deployment also played an important role, with one seasoned south coast election monitor reporting that they had handled a stand-off between EFF and ANC supporters at one station well.  There were, however, complaints about insufficient numbers being deployed at eMpembeni(Richards Bay) where people had been scared to vote after an alleged murderer was released on bail.  Two days after voting, four people, including a young child and a high school learner, were brutally murdered in that area.  Another crucial factor in the success of these elections was the presence of well-trained observers, many of whom were deployed by churches.

We have good reason to be proud of progress made in past quarter century. However, the real test for the incoming government will be whether, when 2021 elections take place, protests will still dominate the polls – of whether we shall see a steady decline in their number and severity because of improved service delivery.

MASSACRE AT EMPEMBENI

On the night of Friday 10 May at around 20h00 heavy gunfire was heard coming from the area near eMpembeni Primary School.  The Esikhawini SAPS were called and attended the scene, as did other policing units.  Three people, including a young child, had been shot at the Ncube home, and their bodies burnt when the homestead was set on fire. At the Mjadu home about a kilometre away a Grade 12 learner was shot dead.  Khaya Mncube, who was killed in September 2018, was a member of the family massacred on Friday.

A climate of terror gripped the community in 2018 and early 2019 as one killing after another took place.  There were no arrests despite a wide range of residents claiming that the Ngwane family was behind the killings.  They were alleged to benefit from corrupt tenders, and were known to be visited by a distinctive vehicle identical to one seen in the vicinity of political killings elsewhere.  This vehicle, and other strange vehicles, changed number plates.  It was also alleged that police members were seen visiting the Ngwane home.

Following complaints to the National Commissioner, SAPS, a task team reporting to the Cluster Commander, King Cetshwayo region (Empangeni) was established, and they were given back up in their work by Public Order policing members who also patrolled eMpembeni, providing residents with a sense of security.  Two members of the Ngwane family, Justice and Meshack, were arrested for three separate killings, and spent weeks in prison.  There were no further killings in the area until Friday.

Last month Meshack and Justice were given bail in the Esikhaleni court, despite the investigating officer opposing it, and the local community presenting a petition with hundreds of signatures opposing it.  Residents attending the bail hearing alleged that a senior local police member who is not involved in investigations was seen in court talking to the accused.  Justice remained in prison, pending two other bail applications.  Conditions were attached to Meshack’s bail, including that he stayed away from eMpembeni.  Independent reports confirm that he has been seen in the area.

ON 2 May, Justice Ngwane was given bail at Ngwelezane court where he faces charges of the murdering Wiseman Hadebe, who was in hiding in the area when he was tracked down and killed. The investigating officer opposed bail but the prosecutor did not, allegedly arguing that the accused had already been given bail for another murder. The magistrate reportedly did not set any bail conditions.  The Control prosecutor has failed to answer questions about why bail was not opposed, and this matter is being pursued at a more senior level.  A crucial third bail application for Justice is to be heard in Esikhaleni court this week and community residents are terrified that he, too, will be released on bail.  The safety of witnesses is already being jeopardised.

For weeks there have been ongoing petitions to SAPS management for the redeployment of POP patrols in the eMPembeni area; they have largely fallen on deaf ears. While there were complaints on election day about there being insufficient police in the area, there was evidence that there were some patrols.  However, according to residents, there are no ongoing POP patrols in the area and whoever was responsible for the killings on Friday night obviously took advantage of that.  POP patrols are needed both as backup to investigators who are doing good work in difficult and dangerous conditions, and to protect residents.  It is unacceptable that they have not maintained a visible presence in the area, and it is essential that they be redeployed.

What is happening in eMpembeni is a consequence of a legacy of extremely poor provincial police management in detective services and crime intelligence.  It required intervention from the national office to ensure that a proper task team was established, but that team still lacks adequate resources. However, CoGTA and the Ingonyama Trust also bear responsibility for the climate of fear in eMpembeni. There are extremely serious, and widespread, allegations of gross corruption in the Traditional Authority (as well as mining tender corruption). It is known that there are plans to move people for some oil or gas related activities which would involve more tenders. Since surveying of the area has taken place, the Ingonyama Trust must have given a lease but it acts as a virtual parallel government and does not answer questions.  However, CoGTA is a government department and, despite repeated appeals, right up to the level of the National Minister’s office, the department refuses to provide any information about what is planned for the area, and to respond to calls for a forensic audit of the traditional authority structures.

The buck stops with the government with these killings. If President Ramaphosa wants to show the country that he means business about people’s safety he needs to give his full support to the National Commissioner SAPS in his efforts to rid the service of rot and instil a culture of professionalism, and to turn his attention to the way in which rural residents are treated by CoGTA and, in this province, the Ingonyama Trust.  The new National Director of Public Prosecutions will also need to look closely at prosecuting services in KZN.

FREEDOM DAY 2019 : THE LONG WALK TO DEMOCRACY

We have good reason to celebrate twenty-five years of freedom but the promise of true democracy in which citizens are sufficiently empowered to hold elected officials to account remains unfulfilled. Violent protests, in which community members resort to burning to make their voices heard, are a consequence of political arrogance and unaccountability. Instead of engagement, governance is through marketing in which money which should be used for service delivery is spent on a plethora of ‘communications’ officials, spin doctors, and expensive colour media advertisements with pictures of beaming politicians.  A key component of modern democracy is absent, for there is no effective bureaucracy which is sufficiently independent of political interference. Management members deployed to senior positions are reshuffled together with their political bosses and the whole system depends on patronage – a recipe for untrammelled corruption – and not recruitment on merit. Most elected officials show no understanding of their responsibilities and political interference in departmental operations is rife. Transparency is government has steadily declined, and a culture of secrecy is endemic. This dysfunctional system impacts seriously on constitutional rights in KZN, including to shelter, health and safety and security.

Shelter and housing

While there are abuses in rural areas, as homes and land are lost to mining, the most conspicuous impact of poor governance is in urban areas. Take, for example, the failure of eThekwini Metro municipality to address adequately the atrocious conditions in apartheid era hostels, and the needs of shack dwellers and homeless people. Housing allocation lacks transparency because there are no publicly accessible housing lists. Many long-standing informal sector dwellers have seen newcomers allocated housing while they remained side-lined.  Patronage networks emanating from councillors are linked to land and housing allocation – tasks which should be carried out by bureaucrats.   Most councillors shirk their responsibility for ensuring that those tasked with delivering services do their jobs, and meaningful engagement between councillors and ward members is generally lacking. Huge tenders are awarded to favoured tenderpreneurs to build what are often badly planned and shoddy homes, instead of training and employing unemployed shack and hostel dwellers to carry out the maintenance and upgrades. The site and service schemes pioneered in the 1980s in areas such as Inanda Newtown could have been re-introduced years ago had it not been for the tender obsession and the benefits it brings to politicians.  Millions of rand wasted on unnecessary events, and foreign junkets for politically favoured taxi operators, should have been used to provide basic shelters for homeless people.

Health :  Gross mismanagement, corruption and a lack of professional ethics

Health starts with prevention and requires inter-departmental co-ordination. The type of insanitary conditions prevailing in hostels and informal settlements fuel pandemics such as TB – which all but disappeared in Europe following the provision of decent housing and sanitation. Instead of embracing long-standing local primary health initiatives and policies the department has wasted millions of rand, which could have been used to build a new medical school and empower local medical professionals, to send students to Cuba.  Well run treatment programmes for cancer patients at Addington collapsed because of corruption and countless cancer patients suffered painful deaths. The PFMA and Hazardous Substances Act was broken yet Departmental management members were not charged, and nor was the MEC who breached the anti-corruption legislation indicted and removed from office.   Despite eight years of qualified audits and billions of rand of irregular expenditure, no one in government – including the provincial premier and portfolio committee – hold the miscreants to account.  Forensic mortuary services have virtually collapsed – with extremely serious consequences for justice – because Tripartite Alliance political interests are given priority over professionalism and service delivery. Grossly inflated administrative management structures at hospitals and clinics – including superfluous CEOs – mean that there is less money for sorely needed health professions.  That these structures are often grossly inefficient is shown in a recent press article about the shocking state of some Durban hospitals. The Department, having clamped down on information following negative publicity about the oncology crisis, predictably seemed more concerned about the public exposure than the root causes.

 Without effective bureaucratic management, and a clean up of the public health sector, the introduction of a National Health Insurance would simply throw good money after bad,  providing yet  another conduit for siphoning off funds for politically connected medical patronage networks. It is self-evident that all responsible for the current mess, starting with the MEC, should play no part in health services when the new government takes office.

Policing, safety and security

Former IPID head Robert McBride has described the SAPS as a patronage network.  Nepotism in promotions has been evident since 1994 but the situation deteriorated rapidly under the stewardship of ministers and commissioners appointed during the ‘wasted’ decade. Another bloated management structure has taken root, especially in KZN, which is over-staffed with generals and brigadiers, while failing to reward and promote competent members who risk their lives at the coalface of crime, their good work often unrewarded with promotion. There are extremely serious problems with crime intelligence and detective services management, and torture is still rife.  There are also challenges, linked to equipment, training, and numerical strength, with Public Order Policing, which plays a vital role in dealing with protest, and protecting vulnerable communities generally. That eThekwini Metro police are now taking on Public Order Policing duties is a cause for concern since it is clear from the Police Act that it is not their role, unless they are acting as backup to the SAPS.  A panel appointed to review Public Order Policing has submitted a report to the national minister, but he has not released it. Why not?

Encouragingly, there are signs of positive change with the appointment of professional, well-trained police members as national and acting provincial commissioners.  Their efforts to build professional policing need support, so media reports suggesting that their minister appears to be over-stepping ministerial boundaries and interfering in policing, raise serious questions.  Why should the minister interfere if a deputy national commissioner has been suspended following an IPID report? Since the suspended member was head of Human Resources, was she involved in any way with the alleged planned promotion of TRT members (who are believed to be favoured by the Minister) at the expense of other members?   

In conclusion

There are signs that the present government recognises some of the problems spawned by the malfunctioning civil service and its own oversight failures. However, it remains to be seen whether – given the destructive factionalism in the ANC – it will have the power to take the necessary remedial action, or to jettison the culpable ministers and MECs. Freedom Day should honour the memory of those countless thousands who died for the universal franchise we now take for granted. We can do that by dedicating ourselves to building the type of society they gave their lives for, including by demanding accountability from the victors in the forthcoming elections, and from all public representatives.

DEMOCRACY’S SURPLUS PEOPLE

Apartheid’s Surplus People were those millions of black South Africans who were forcibly relocated in the implementation of spatial racial segregation.  These removals caused untold suffering to families and communities. They increased poverty, and tore the social fabric apart, leaving a lasting impact on the nature of our society. However, democracy has its own surplus people – those who have been relocated since 1994, or are facing removal for mining-related activities, including in KZN. Their position is now under greater threat than ever from bills about traditional leadership and expropriation

The heart-breaking suffering caused by forced relocations was graphically described at a meeting in Durban in December 1981 attended by representatives of communities from all over KZN who were facing relocation. Among those present were representatives of Reserves 4 and 6, from which people were to be relocated, or had already been removed, to Ntambanana, inland from Empangeni. These Reserves were ‘badly situated’ for the expansion of Richards Bay and had been transferred back from the KwaZulu bantustan to South Africa. With one voice the speakers – including a widow from Mandlazini with a large family who had, with others, already been moved, spoke powerfully of their fruitless resistance to removal from their fertile coastal areas. There they had ploughed their fields, kept cattle, and produced a surplus of fruit to sell. They had always had enough water, even in times of drought.  In contrast, water was scarce in Ntambanana, and the small salt-laden river dried up in times of drought.  The soil was so poor that even white farmers with access to the Land Bank could not make a living. What were they to eat if they could not even grow sweet potatoes?

Twenty-five years into constitutional democracy, there are certain parallels between the events in Reserves 4 and 6, and the plight of people living in eMpembeni, south of Richards Bay. The main difference is that it is not the financial interests of apartheid ideology, but those of big mining business and their ‘black empowerment’ partners, which pose the threat.  Some residents have already been ‘persuaded’ to move, with minimal compensation, for titanium mining. Those living in the Gubetuko area have been told they will have to move for ‘oil’.   However, no one, including CoGTA, is telling them what these oil-related activities are. According to locals who have tried to find out, all that is known is that a company whose director is well known to soccer fans is involved, that there was talk of a ‘labour plan’, and that the area has been surveyed (including aerially).  Its precise connection with oil (and gas) is unknown, but it is likely that the area is earmarked for storage and/or refinery purposes and, probably, the expansion of the Richards Bay port. Whether these plans are connected to a reported 2015 deal about an Oil and Gas tank farm south of Mthunzini, of which there is yet no sign, is not known.

Like the area from which people were removed to Ntambanana, Gubetuko is fertile – people can subsist from the livestock they keep and the food they grow, and have surplus to sell. They are determined not to move.  They are painfully aware that neighbours who have moved are crying for their loss of land and livelihoods. They also know about the serious environmental degradation mining brings.  It may appear that they have the Constitution on their side but, as has repeatedly been shown, putting it into practice is a different matter altogether. Powerful financial interests and politicians know that most disempowered rural people lack the resources to engage the type of legal support needed to fight Big Mining.  Amidst the silence over what is planned, there have, for months, been targeted attacks by faceless hit men and many of the victims are young men, some of whom had been in hiding.  Thanks to national SAPS intervention those who are widely alleged to have sent the hitmen (who are allegedly beneficiaries of huge mining-related tenders) are in prison, and the area has been quiet since their arrests. They are known to have powerful connections, and there are fears that they may be released on bail. Making matters worse, provincial SAPS management has failed to re-deploy the additional patrols which provided a security blanket for residents and local police investigators. There is no better way of intimidating people into compliance than a campaign of terror unleased against them.

In KZN the problems start when the Ingonyama Trust Board gives leases to business concerns to operate on land it controls, so it must have given a lease for Gubetuko land.  It would also have given leases to the coal mining companies wreaking havoc in many areas, including Somkele (Mtubatuba), where people have had to move and received minimal compensation for large pieces of land they previously farmed, and where those who remain near the mines suffer serious pollution effects, including high levels of life-threatening respiratory illnesses.  Since the formation of the Board circa 2000 questions have arisen about conflict of interest issues. For example, is one of the listed directors of Zululand Anthracite Colliery the same Jerome Ngwenya who chairs the current board?

However, the Board operates in tandem with the local traditional leadership and council, which must give permission for the awarding of the lease. That is easy to arrange for all that is required is to dispense patronage to enough residents for them to buy into the ‘development’ and ‘jobs’ rhetoric. If that fails, people can be bused in to sign.  Now this so-called democratic government has reinforced feudalism in the Khoisan and Traditional Leaders bill recently rammed through parliament, giving traditional structures more power to cut deals with mining companies.

Amidst all its rhetoric about land restitution, the government is facilitating the stripping of land rights and with them the right to decent food and shelter.  Is it aware of the large numbers of children who are nutritionally, and people who go to bed hungry? The very politicians who enthuse over the supposed financial benefits of mining stood by while countless billions were looted from the country’s coffers. Our number one priority should be food security. Nor do these politicians-cum-business people evince any real concern for the environment.  Do they not understand the devastation they are wreaking on the planet by their fossil fuel greed – and that their descendants will be among those who reap the whirlwind?  The need to stop the plunder, and support the people of eMpembeni, Somkele and all affected and threatened areas, has never been greater. 

SERIOUS THREATS TO LIVES VUMANI SHANDU AND FAMILY AS EMPEMBENI KILLINGS CONTINUE

In leading opposition to attempts to move eMpembeni residents for mining-related reasons Vumani Shandu enjoys the support of many residents whose rights are threatened.  In eMpemeni, kwaDube (near Richards Bay) as in other mining-affected communities in KZN, residents’ rights are being trampled on by mining operations.  To make way for mining operations carried out by Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) in kwaDube an unknown number of families were persuaded to vacate their lands and move elsewhere, allegedly with minimal compensation.  Recently, in another area around Lake Cubhu, residents have been told by persons associated with the Traditional Authority that they will need to move for ‘oil’.  They have seen what has happened to those who moved for RBM operations, and they are determined to oppose relocation, and losing their homesteads, gardens and grazing.   These residents have legal rights to the land they live on, which rights vis a vis mineral rights have recently been upheld by the Constitutional Court

Vumani Shandu was among those who, in early July 2018, were planning a public protest. However, after two men – one a close associate and the other a relative – were shot dead, and fearing for his safety, he went into hiding out of the area.  The murder of Geshege Nkwenyana on 10 July was followed by the assassination of Mthuthuko Dladla three days later.  Both men were killed while returning to eMpembeni from Richards Bay.  Further killings followed :  Khaya Ncube died on16 September and Keke Ngwane was shot dead at the Esikhawini mall in the middle of the day on 26 September.  Wiseman Hadebe died in a hail of around fifteen bullets at Ngwelezana, while waiting for a lift to work; he had left Mpembeni after a close associate had been killed and he had been warned he was also a marked man.  Mandlankosi Makhoba, chairperson of the local Small Business Association, was shot dead on 13 December.  There have been at least three other attempted murders. When Hadebe, a train driver and member of a respected local family was killed, the Empangeni SAPS  fed what eMpembeni residents claim is ‘fake news’ to the media. Allusions were made to a supposed ‘shootout’ and a ‘rumour’ that the deceased had been involved in gangsterism   The Empangeni Station Commissioner has not responded to questions requesting clarification emailed to him a month ago.

On 10th October 2018 Vumani Shandu miraculously, survived an assassination attempt in the area in which he is in hiding. Shortly before Christmas he received an anonymous text message threatening to kill him and/or his family.  The Esikhawini SAPS are to be commended for deploying patrols in the vicinity of the family home.

Various eMpembeni residents have confirmed, independently, that the only reason they have been given when told they must move is that it is for ‘oil mining’ (sometimes an overseas country is named). It is known that there has been aerial and land surveying in the area around Cubhu lake (reportedly one of those linked to the supply of water to Richards Bay). However, the only known oil-related activities relate to the application by Eni and Sasol to prospect for oil and gas nearby, but offshore.  For the past six months all attempts to find out what the plans are for the area have drawn a blank.  There have been no responses to letters to the office of the National Minister for Mineral Resources, the KZN Premier, the MEC for Finance, sundry Parliamentary Portfolio Committees in Cape Town and those sent to the provincial Head of Department and MEC for CoGTA.  The National CoGTA Minister referred the matter to the Head of his Department and a response is still awaited. The Ingonyama Trust must have given a lease for the land (King Zwelithini is said to approve of whatever is planned), but emails sent to the Board have been returned.  Unless the Trust is not briefing CoGTA about leases it is giving out, this Department must surely know what is happening, since the Traditional Authority is implicated. Is there any relationship between these events and the proposed off-shore prospecting?  Government departments have been told how serious the situation is, yet they remain silent while people continue to die.  Why this secrecy? Do they not know what their Constitutional obligations are towards those whose areas they administer?

Piecing together information from various sources, it seems that corruption lies at the heart these killings. Some of those who have died knew of gross corruption relating to tender allocation (involving work for RBM), and alleged serious corruption in the Traditional Authority, possibly linked to a payment to the Authority made by the Ingonyama Trust relating to mining income.  It is rumoured that even the local Inkosi (traditional leader) is in hiding. It is believed that the proposed new mining-related activities will bring further, extremely lucrative, business opportunities for those who have already cornered the tender market – which may be the motive for the elimination of people who are opposing moving to make way for them.

The killings are, without doubt, the work of trained hit men and strange vehicles seen in the area have false number plates. Despite the existence of sundry leads (believed to include some CCTV footage) no arrests have been reported.  Community members fear to trust the current investigators with information they have gathered and have requested national intervention. The lives of Vumani Shandu – who continues to duck and dive for cover in different locations– and his family are in grave danger. This situation, including the shroud of secrecy which envelopes it, cannot be allowed to continue : Urgent action is needed to prevent further killings.

KZN IN 2018 : VIOLENCE, THE CULTURE OF CORRUPTION AND COLD COMFORT FOR CORRUPTION-BUSTERS

Through the exposures of investigative journalism, and the proceedings of national government Commissions of Inquiry, South Africans learnt this year of the depths to which ‘state capture’ corruption had dragged their beloved country. In KZN the reports of the Moerane Commission and Public Protector, despite some serious shortcomings, confirmed the link between greed, corruption and politics, and their role in the killing of politicians and municipal officials. While politicians claim they will act upon the findings of the Moerane Commission report experience suggests that the findings of commissions are seldom implemented, especially if they are likely to embarrass those who are governing. While there have been some arrests and convictions for politically-linked killings this year, the failure of police management and politicians to ensure the safety of those fighting corruption shows the lack of any real commitment to rooting out this evil.

Corruption in local government enjoys some prominence because of its association with killings, especially those of councillors and senior municipal officials, but it is rife in other levels of government (grossly irregular procurement and nepotism), and many traditional authorities. In January 2018 ANC councillor Sifiso Mlambo was shot dead at his Mpembeni home (near Richards Bay), following an earlier failed attempt on his life.  Available evidence suggests that this killing was linked not to ANC politics but to alleged gross corruption in structures associated with the local traditional authority that he (and others targeted) have tried to address.  As the killings of political activists, office bearers and municipal officials continued, the announcement in May by newly appointed Minister of Police Bheki Cele that police investigators from outside of the province would be deployed was widely welcomed, since very few breakthroughs have been made by local task teams. Of the 22 deaths in the run up to the 2016 local government elections, only one court case is known to be in progress. A noticeable exception is the success of dedicated local detectives working on Glebelands cases who, in the past year, have secured the first convictions of hit men linked to the carnage in the hostel complex.  Several arrests have been made for the killing of politicians since the new task team started operating but the quality of the evidence, and whether those arrested are found guilty. remains to be seen. Of the fifty plus politically-linked murders since early 2016 (including around eleven in 2018, and excluding those in Glebelands) there are no reported convictions.  Cases of gross corruption – such as those exposed by ANC corruption-busters in the Sisonke and Harry Gwala municipalities in 2016, and under investigation since then –  have dragged on for years. At the root of this failure to bring criminals to book is police incompetence and corruption, the failure of IPID to deal with it, and easy access to guns and hit men, in which the taxi industry plays a pivotal role. The Moerane Commission findings skirted around these core issues.

Despite the government anti-corruption rhetoric, the conduct of provincial and national government representatives suggests otherwise.  For example, a 2017 KZN Treasury forensic report details Department of Health’s provincial management’s gross violation of Treasury regulations and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). Despite these violations being linked to the scandalous failure of the provincial department to maintain almost new state-or-the-art oncology machines, leading to the unnecessary deaths of countless of cancer patients, no criminal charges are known to have been opened (i.e. for breaking PFMA and the Combating of Corrupt Activities Act).  Cancer patients die while the provincial Department of Health has had a qualified audit for several years running and incurring irregular expenditure of billions of rand annually.  If it transpires that the Member of Executive Committee for Health, Dr S Dhlomo, did not open criminal cases against those named in the forensic report, he himself would be presumed guilty of breaking the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act.   In terms of the Constitution, the Premier of the province, and other executive members to whom this corruption was drawn, would also probably be culpable.

Government’s failure to implement the recommendations of the Public Protector, in her report released in August 2018, sends out a very clear message that fighting corruption is likely to be a death sentence.  When he was shot in 2017, and subsequently died, ANC activist Sindiso Magaqa, was working to expose gross corruption involving renovations to the Umzimkhulu Memorial Hall.  His close comrade friends Les Stuta and Thabiso Zulu picked up the baton and spoke out about his endeavours, with Zulu subsequently giving evidence about that, and other politically-linked corruption, at the Moerane Commission.  The death threats then started. The Public Protector investigated the matter of the hall and the threats to Stuta and Zulu arising from it and, in a report released in mid-December, confirmed that, among other things, proper procurement procedures had been breached, and millions of rand of irregular expenditure had been incurred.  Her earlier report, in August, had taken into account that independent security threat assessments by state agencies had confirmed that the lives of Stuta and Zulu were in danger. The Minister and National Commissioner of Police were instructed to ensure that the two men were provided with the security recommended following the threat analysis, at state expense. The Minister and Commissioner have ignored this instruction, and, despite an appeal to parliament – to whom they are responsible – in October, no security has been provided for them.  Their lives remain in grave danger, probably from their own comrades at whom they have pointed fingers.

Compare the situation of Stuta and Zulu with that of investigative journalists in Italy who are provided with police protection when under threat. Could there be a clearer message – from government itself – that exposing corruption should be avoided if one wants to stay alive?  Should any harm befall Stuta and Zulu it is at the same government that the fingers will be pointed.

PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE : THE 2017/2018 SAPS CRIME STATISTICS AND THE DEATH OF SIMON MILLIKEN

The release of the latest annual SAPS crime statistics confirmed what South Africans already knew: Violent crime is out of control, with a daily average of 57 murders country-wide, 12 of which are in KwaZulu-Natal. Shortly before these figures were released, a local, much-loved musician, Simon Milliken, was stabbed, and left to die, in a Durban nature reserve. Milliken’s death, like so many others, is an indictment of the poor governance and the gross mismanagement of policing which are key contributing factors to rising levels of violent crime. Simon Milliken’s death, like so many others, should not be in vain, but should serve as a wake-up call to SAPS and eThekwini management to get their houses in order in preventing and responding to violent crime.

THE LACK OF PREVENTIVE CRIME STRATEGIES
Simon Milliken and a visiting conductor of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra, Mr Perry So were watching birds in the Burman Bush nature reserve during the afternoon of 31 August when they were confronted by an armed man demanding their valuables. They fled in different directions after Milliken had refused to comply with the assailant’s demands, and Milliken’s body was found the following morning. He had been stabbed and had died of his injuries. Prior to this incident it was well known that there had this reserve had been plagued by muggings because it was easily accessed by criminals through gaping holes in the fence. There is evidence – including that gathered by a committee researching farm violence in the early 2000s – that criminals who get away with committing less serious crimes may end up killing people. It should have been obvious that it was only a matter of time before someone was seriously injured, raped and/or killed, but the eThekwini municipality had taken no steps to restrict access by repairing the fencing and ensuring that there were trained security personnel on duty during visiting hours. There were not even any operative Flying Squad or Metro police numbers in the reserve’s office, which had the telephone number of the Westville SAPS and not those of stations much nearer. Nor, despite its status as a crime ‘hot spot’ is there any evidence of any effective crime prevention strategy on the part of police stations under which the reserve falls.

SERIOUS QUESTIONS ABOUT SAPS RESPONSE
The response by the SAPS following the initial report during the late Friday afternoon that Milliken was missing is shocking – particularly as it appears from autopsy results that he would have remained alive, and possibly in great pain, for an unknown period following the stabbing.
When, after a considerable delay, police arrived at the reserve they appeared ill-equipped for searching in the fading light, and, for some inexplicable reason they did not bring dogs to assist with the search, despite both SAPS and Metro police having K9 units. They seemed reluctant to search in the dark and announced they would return at daybreak. They did not do so. On the following morning, sometime after 07h00 John Roome and his wife were walking in the reserve when they found Milliken’s body. They notified the reserve office personnel who telephoned Westville SAPS who in turn reported the matter to Durban Central SAPS. Their response was fairly prompt, but they said that since the area fell under Mayville SAPS that station should be called (they did not have notebooks and had to rummage in the bag of the deceased for a paper and pencil). None of the police who attended the scene knew about the SAPS having been called the previous evening to search for the missing man. The official SAPS response – that the Search and Rescue Unit had responded and searched the area until very late on the Friday, and had returned to the scene at first light the following day, subsequent to which the body had been found, has been contradicted by those present on the Friday night and Saturday morning – which begs questions about the accuracy of public information provided by the SAPS. However, encouragingly there as been a positive response to detailed questions sent to SAPS management, and senior police members have been appointed to investigate the complaint. The police have also clarified that one of the problems that the police searching the area faced late on the Friday afternoon was that there is more than one entrance to the reserve, and they had not been given sufficiently accurate information about which entrance had been used, and which paths had been taken, by the deceased and his companion. To complicate matters further, the top end of the reserve (i.e. near North Ridge Road) falls under one policing jurisdiction, and the other end, which is nearer to the centre of Durban, falls under another.

THE WAY FORWARD
While the circumstances surrounding the death of Simon Milliken have been used as an example, his is by no means the only death which could probably have been prevented had policing been functioning effectively. In July twelve taxi drivers were massacred while travelling in the Weenen area. It is alleged that police management had been warned about the likelihood of this attack but had not followed up on the information. It is all very well for the National Minister and Commissioner to express outrage at rising crime levels, but little is likely to change without a shake-up of management, and a complete revamp of crime intelligence and detective services. The question is, do they have the will to do away with the nepotism which leads to promotion beyond competence levels and political interference in policing?
Nor should the culpability of the eThekwini municipality be overlooked. Since Milliken’s death It has moved rapidly to secure the reserve with fencing and better guarding, but why did it take a murder for it to act? Burman reserve is not the only one in Durban in which there are realistic concerns about the safety of visitors and those using paths next to roads outside of fenced areas, which should be cleared of vegetation to stop people scaling fences. Earlier this year the headless body of a woman was found inside the fence in Pigeon Valley, Glenwood. Neighbouring paths used by pedestrians are overgrown with vegetation, making it easy for a body to be disposed of this way – and endangering the safety of all those walking past the reserve, including university students. These concerns can easily be addressed by ensuring that fencing is adequate to ensure controlled access, and the deployment of well-trained, properly vetted, guards who can immediately access emergency assistance from nearby police.
The suggestion from eThekwini municipality that CCTV cameras be installed in nature reserves is ridiculous, given the nature of the terrain. These cameras have served little purpose in preventing violence in the Glebelands hostel complex, and the Passenger Rail Service cameras have not worked for the past three years. There are serious questions about whether those who monitor them are themselves trustworthy. The tendency of the municipality to resort to the use of CCTV cameras when there are better ways of fighting crime also raises questions about who is benefitting from the procurement process.
While the response of the municipality is ‘better late than never’ its failure to act before someone was killed suggests its priorities are badly skewed. These areas are vital ‘green lungs’ for Durban and should be integral to providing environmental education for young people. Perhaps the mayor should earmark some of the millions of rand she is squandering on dubious projects which are unlikely to lead to anything of lasting value for ensuring that all of Durban’s green areas are safe for everyone, and for educating youth about the value of their environmental heritage.
KZN Monitor would like to thank SAPS management for losing no time in launching an investigation into the failure of the police to initiate crime prevention strategies in the area and their tardy and uncoordinated response to the report that Milliken was missing after a criminal attack. Hopefully the death of Simon Milliken will lead to action which prevents further criminal incidents in the beautiful green areas in Durban