Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

Numsa demands release of ABM activist Mqapheli Bonono

Movement's deputy president was arrested last Tuesday on a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Abahlali baseMjondolo (ABM) on Wednesday demanded the immediate release of the deputy president of the shack dwellers movement who was arrested last week in Durban.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim condemned the arrest of activist Mqapheli Bonono last Tuesday, saying he was arrested on a trumped-up charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

He said Bonono’s arrest was clearly an attempt by the ANC government to discredit and delegitimise ABM.

“It is not a secret that the ABM is a thorn in the side of the ANC government for their independence and also their refusal to compromise on their demand for land, housing and dignity. The arrest of Bonono is the latest example of the relentless attack which this government has unleased on the organisation and its members,” Jim said in a statement.

ABM is a non-political organisation with more than 80,000 members in five provinces and is well-known for campaigning against evictions.

ALSO READ: Abahlali baseMjondolo a civic body ‘for all oppressed’

ABM spokesperson Thapelo Mohapi said Bonono was arrested for organising a meeting at which an alleged murder plot was discussed to kill a local community activist.

Mohapi said the charge was related to the longstanding attempts by the ANC government in the eThekwini municipality to crush the eKhenena occupation in Cato Manor, an occupation that is now a working commune. The settlement was created in 2018 by residents evicted from various parts of KwaZulu-Natal.

“These persecutions have been taking place for quite some in our province and we are saying enough is enough. Whenever we hold the government to account in this province we are treated as criminals and people who should be removed because you are disturbing politicians from their corruption,” Mohapi told The Citizen.

Bonono is expected to appear in the Durban Magistrate’s Court on Thursday for a bail application.

ABM leaders ‘assassinated’

At the same time, Jim said Abahlali baseMjondolo had been subjected to repeated waves of repression and had lost a number of leaders to assassinations which forced it to operate underground for months at a time.

“Abahlali baseMjondolo have routinely been subjected to evictions which have been illegally carried out by the eThekwini municipality. Since the lockdown began the movement has been subject to repeated armed attacks from Calvin and Family Security Services, a notoriously violent private security company acting on the instruction of the municipality,” Jim said.

“Live ammunition has been used during these attacks and a number of the movement’s members have been hospitalised with serious injuries. On each occasion people’s homes have been destroyed and building materials burnt. In many instances people have also lost vital documents such as clinic cards, Sassa cards, school books and ID cards during the attacks.”

Numsa welcomed messages of solidarity from the landless peoples’ movement in Brazil the MST, the Socialist Forum of Ghana and other progressive formations calling for Bonono’s unconditional release.

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits