Police must take the harassment and killings of Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) activists seriously, and impartially, thoroughly and effectively investigate these cases, Amnesty International South Africa said at the launch of its Write for Rights campaign in Durban today.
This year, Amnesty International South Africa is putting our might behind Thapelo Mohapi – General Secretary of AbM – who is in hiding and facing threats because of his activism.
Thapelo Mohapi has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of people across South Africa, particularly in areas suffering economic hardship. One of those areas is eKhenana, in Durban.
“Thapelo and AbM activists are determined to improve the lives of poor communities who still do not have access to basic rights such as adequate housing, water and sanitation,” Amnesty International South Africa Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said.
“They have spoken out against cases of local government corruption and worked hard to improve life in their community by starting a political school, farm, communal kitchen and shop. In return, they have been met with not just resistance but threats, harassment and intimidation. They have been victims of attempted and actual murders, violence, harassment, and damage to their homes,” she said.
In 2022 alone, three AbM members were killed in eKhenana. More than 20 AbM activists have been killed since the formation of the grassroots movement in 2005.
“In a world where freedom of expression is often repressed, protecting human rights becomes more and more dangerous,” Shenilla Mohamed said.
Thapelo Mohapi was one of the first people to arrive on the scene after his fellow activist Ayanda Ngila was killed in March 2022. He said it was after this that it was decided that the top leadership of AbM must go underground.
“It was very painful for me to see his lifeless body on the ground on that day,” he said.
“I was hoping that at this time I would be enjoying my life, making money for my children, taking my family out to holidays. But now my movement is restricted. I have to have protocols and security that I need to follow,” Thapelo Mohapi said.
“I live like a criminal, when in fact I’m not.”
Thapelo Mohapi said the authorities had not failed, they just did not care.
“Police don’t care about people in the informal settlements,” he said.
“Our lives don’t matter in the current eyes of the government. We don’t know when hitmen will be hired for us. We don’t know when police will open fire in the informal settlement and kill people.”
Across the country, the AbM movement is fighting for better living conditions, including access to adequate housing. The government should be working with AbM to improve the lives of people in South Africa.
Amnesty International South Africa is demanding that police conduct a thorough, impartial, independent, transparent and effective investigation into the harassment and killings of AbM members, bring suspected perpetrators to justice in fair trials and end the attacks against the movement’s members.
Amnesty International South Africa is advocating for justice for Thapelo and AbM activists as part of the organisation’s record-breaking Write for Rights campaign, which mobilises hundreds of thousands of people around the world to change the lives of individuals at risk through taking action.
Since 2001, the organisation has collected millions of messages written in support of people who are unjustly detained or persecuted. Write for Rights has become the world’s biggest human rights event.
For more information or to request an interview, please contact:
Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer , Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0) 64 890 9224; email@example.com
Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196