Outspoken residents fear for their lives in Isiqalo

Zukisa August ambushed on his way home from work

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Mthandeni Mazambe, Noxolo Thembela and Zukisa August of Siqalo informal community say they are living in fear of former community leaders. Photo by Siyavuya Khaya..

Those in the forefront of a bitter battle that removed five community leaders in Siqalo informal settlement nearby Mitchell’s plain last year in September, say their lives are in danger.

This comes after Zukisa August was ambushed on his way home from work in Philippi station late afternoon on the 18 of January. The residents had dubbed the former community leaders the ‘Big Five’ as they had refused to step down.

Violence erupted between Siqalo residents and the former community leaders following allegations of corruption levelled against them. Ten community leaders stepped down peacefully, but the ‘Big Five’ refused.

August says he was about to make use of the public toilets outside Phillippi station when one of the Big Five members stood in front of him blocking his way.

“I pleaded with him to move away and allow me to pass. Instead, he punched me in my face and I fought back. Within a split second, I saw a group of young men carrying sticks led by one of the [other] members of the Big Five rushing towards me. They beat the hell out of me, even though I tried to defend myself,” he says

Residents of Philippi also beat him. He says members of Big Five lied to them and said he was a criminal who had tried to rob them. The ordeal that lasted for almost two hours nearly killed him and now he lives in fear of his life, he says.

“Taxi owners in Philippi came to my rescue and said the residents should not kill me nearby the station. And the [two] members of Big Five tried to drag me to a car … that is when I got a chance to escape,” he says.

August believes his attackers followed him for some time as they knew exactly when he catches a taxi near Phillipi station.

He says that prior to the attack, he had been receiving numerous calls from the same people accusing him of orchestrating a plot to burn their shacks. He did not report the case to the police, because he has lost faith in them. He says he’ll fight back.

The attack left him struggling to walk and unable to feel his lower body for nearly two weeks. He is mobile, but has not yet fully recovered. He has resigned as a community leader.

August is not alone in fearing for his life. Mthandeni Mazembe said in December half a dozen men came to his shack around four in the morning asking for the owner of the house. He said the owner was away. He believed the men were sent to attack him, but were not sure he was the person they wanted.

“I went to live with my sister who lives in the area. A day later, I went to check on my house and I was stunned to find that people had broken in and removed the corrugated iron structure at the back of my shack.

“I felt that my life was in danger and opted to flee the area and live in Mfuleni. We are now required to constantly look over our shoulders … We don’t know when they might attack us.

Yet he decided to return home. “They know where I work and it was pointless for me to leave my house because they can attack me at my workplace … If they want to kill me … they know where I work,” he says.

“We are going for revenge as well because clearly they want to kill us and we can’t put our faith on the police because they are useless,” he says.

GroundUp tried every means possible to contact the leaders August accuses, but were unable to reach them.

TOPICS:  Local government

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