|"Our nation has lost its greatest son," President Jacob Zuma
May former president Nelson Mandela Rest in peace
SINCE September 30, a certain Jared Sacks has peddled lies, titillation and gossip in the mass media with the sole aim of discrediting the African National Congress-led KwaZulu-Natal provincial government in as far as the matter of the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement is concerned.
In various media, Sacks has made claims that are far-fetched and always laced with a slant that seeks to discredit the ANC-led KwaZulu-Natal provincial government.
There are innumerable innuendos in Sacks’s “on-site research” and “expert” knowledge on Kennedy Road, but a few stand out.
Firstly, it is inaccurate that there was no forum in Kennedy Road Informal Settlement before the attacks over the weekend of September 26 and September 27.
The truth is, there was a group of people who had formed themselves into a Safety and Security Forum. This forum had political links with Abahlali baseMjondolo. This group was launched with the tacit approval of the Sydenham SAPS station commissioner. The actions of the implicated police station in the matter are now sub judice as a top-level investigation is under way. By the directive of the acting provincial commissioner, the said forum had no legal standing and it has since been dissolved. There are official records to support this, including local newspaper articles and intelligence reports on the matter. The president of Abahlali baseMjondolo, Sbu Zikode, confirmed the existence of the forum in one of his unreported conversations with my office.
Secondly, it is inconceivable that the party that leads government (the ANC) should act in a manner that is inconsistent with the Constitution. Be that as it may, we remain committed to investigating any claims that may bring peace and order to our people. I want to assure all our people that as soon as credible information is presented to us, an investigation will be launched. No person has to date made an official complaint.
Thirdly, a curfew was indeed imposed on the residents of Kennedy Road. In four meetings, (two of which I attended and addressed) different members of the community raised the issue. It is ludicrous to ask us to believe that so many people who stay in the area can tell collective lies at four different meetings with four different government representatives.
In addition to the people’s testimonies on the matter, we have various on-the- ground intelligence reports that point to the same conclusion.
The most serious of all the allegations is that we as government have done nothing but cover up the issue of Kennedy Road; we reject this allegation as preposterous.
In terms of research conducted by the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, the root causes of the problems at the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement are socioeconomic in nature. The reality of the situation therefore is that abject poverty becomes a breeding ground for crime. Safety measures and initiatives are compromised by the social status of these areas.
Since the criminal attacks I have, acting on behalf of provincial government, given a mandate for a provincial government task team to be established for the purpose of developing a concentrated response on this matter. The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government Task Team comprises various units of the police, the Department of Community Safety and Liaison, and Ethekwini Municipality
As per the MEC’s mandate, the first meeting had a sitting on September 28 at the Kennedy Road municipal hall to hear the stakeholders’ views and the community’s views in regard to the situation at hand.
The findings indicated that:
• there are political and crime-related incidents;
• the crime-related incidents should be separated from the political incidents;
• some police members are implicated in working with the forum that has links with Abahlali baseMjondolo;
• there is no community policing forum (CPF) sub-forum in Kennedy Road formed to work with the police in terms of crime-prevention initiatives;
• distribution of food parcels is also a cause of division in the community; and
• some criminal cases are reported to the local police station but all in vain.
The following resolutions were then taken at this meeting:
• the provincial commissioner’s office was to set up a special police task team to hunt down the criminals who were involved in the incidents that occurred;
• the Safety and Security Forum must be declared a vigilante group and be dissolved;
• the Kennedy Road Informal Settlement must be placed under 24-hour policing by teams from the Public Order Policing Unit and the Durban Metro Police;
• the Ethekwini Municipality will investigate ways of improving lighting in the area, including the installation of floodlights;
• the Ethekwini Municipality shall without delay clear bushes and plantations that may impinge on the work of the police;
• all crime shall be reported to the newly established special task team;
• a special focus will be placed on the proliferation of illegal taverns. All legal taverns shall operate within the law, including operating hours.
I further called for a communities-in-dialogue session on the matter. This session took place on Sunday, October 4, at the Kennedy Road community hall.
The session commenced with a meeting with the stakeholders where presentations were made by the MEC, the police and Ethekwini Metro. These presentations included the following information:
• eight suspects were arrested for murder, attempted murder and assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm;
• an undertaking was made by Ethekwini Municipality to install high mast lights or floodlights within three weeks;
• a housing project was proposed for the area that is equivalent to approximately 600 households to start in January 2010;
• the management of the community hall will be improved to ensure access to all;
• on October 30 a new CPF sub-forum for the area will be established. Processes towards the establishment of the legitimate CPF sub-forum were to commence on October 6. This was followed by a media briefing which was well covered both in the local and national media.
The session was concluded with a community meeting where the community gave their input.
The following resolutions on the way forward were adopted:
• the Sydenham Community Policing Forum, the SAPS and the Department of Community Safety and Liaison will ensure that the establishment of the recognised CPF sub-forum is completed;
• the MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison shall meet the faith- based organisations and church pastors in the area to hear their views since they are assisting some of the victims;
• the housing project will start in February 2010 so as to ensure proper accommodation for community members;
• the MEC will proceed to seek a discussion with the leadership of Abahlali baseMjondolo in order to find lasting solutions.
On October 7, I reported to the Executive Council of KwaZulu-Natal on this matter, in order to ensure their participation.
On October 8, the office of the MEC sent a letter to the leadership of Abahlali baseMjondolo and all interested faith groups requesting that they attend a meeting on the Kennedy Road matter with the MEC on dates that would be amenable to all parties. The response received to date is from Zimu group, African Gospel Church, who expressed an interest in being part of the meeting. The telephonic conversation with one of the leaders of Abahlali baseMjondolo indicated that they are not interested in meeting the MEC, but only the president of the Republic of South Africa.
On October 11 a meeting was held with approximately 150 community members of Kennedy Road to establish the interim CPF sub-forum. An 11-member committee was formed.
The meeting concluded that on October 24 a workshop will be held for CPF members at the community hall where the members will nominate the CPF sub-forum office bearers.
On policing, the work of the task team on Kennedy Road is commendable. As at October 14, a total of 15 arrests had been made by police. This government is committed to working together with the community of Kennedy Road to ensure that all matters are addressed expediently.
• Willies Mchunu (MPL) is the KwaZulu- Natal MEC for Transport, Community Safety and Liaison. He is also the provincial deputy chairperson of the African National Congress.