On 5 December, ESCR-Net sent a letter
to Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa, to express the
Network’s collective concern following the murder of Sibonelo Patrick Mpeku.
Mr. Mpeku, 32 years old, was a leader of ESCR-Net member Abahlali baseMjondolo,
social movement of shack-dwellers living in South Africa’s informal
settlements. In Abahlali he served as chairperson for the Sisonke Village
branch and the KwaZulu/Natal Provincial Council.
was reportedly killed around 11:00 pm on Sunday, 19 November 2017, when he was
dragged from his home and stabbed in Sisonke Village, Lamontville, municipality
of eThekwini, province of KwaZulu-Natal. ESCR-Net understands that this murder
served as reprisal for his work to defend the human rights of the area’s
noted that this murder is the most recent in a wider trend of ongoing threats
and attacks perpetrated against community leaders in the informal settlements
in and around Durban, eThekwini municipality, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
With particular concern at the apparent impunity following these acts, ESCR-Net
also observed that various threats levelled against the human rights defender
had been reported to the area councillor, the ward committee, the local police
and offices of the governing political party, but no notable response by local
authorities or the media was received. To date, no arrests have taken place
with respect to Mr. Mpeku’s murder.
called on the South African government to ensure a prompt, fair and impartial
investigation and to guarantee that the perpetrators will be brought to justice
and to protect all shack-dwellers and their community leaders from threats,
acts of intimidation and violence as a result of their human rights work.
In light of the recent efforts by Mr. Mpeku, the Network also called on South
Africa to undertake all necessary steps to address corruption in the allocation
of public housing, forced evictions and unlawful demolitions affecting
residents in informal settlements and shantytowns. Finally, cognizant that some
community organizers have been denied access to housing, services and work
opportunities as a consequence of their human rights work, ESCR-Net asked
President Zuma to ensure that the human rights of all persons are upheld
without discrimination of any kind, including due to perceived or actual
political party affiliation.