Bishop calls for immediate release of ‘Kennedy 13’
Monday, 7th December 2009. 12:05pm
By: George Conger .
The Bishop of Natal has issued a plea for the immediate release of the “Kennedy 13”, claiming the men are political prisoners jailed for “speaking the truth to the power” of the ANC government in KwaZulu-Natal.
On Nov 16, Bishop Rubin Phillip and 40 other Natal clergy gathered outside of the magistrate’s court in Durban to protest the arrest of 13 members of homeless movement Abahlali baseMjondolo.
The accused have been “in prison for two months without trial - two months in prison without any evidence being presented to a court and without a decision on bail. This is a moral and legal outrage that amounts to detention without trial by means of delay,” the bishop said and “borders on unlawful detention.”
In September an armed mob allegedly led by ANC militants attacked the Kennedy Road shanty town, killing four, seizing property and driving many residents from their homes --- while police allegedly watched. After the attack the police arrested 13 of the victims of the violence, arraigning them for attacking themselves.
The attack and the response to the attack by the police and government leaders in KwaZulu-Natal make it “patently clear that there was a political dimension to the attack and that the response of the police has been to pursue that political agenda rather than justice,” the bishop charged.
The “days of the political prisoner” did not end with the apartheid era, Bishop Phillip warned. The detention of the Kennedy 13 and the magistrate’s refusal to hold a bail hearing shows “that this is quite clearly a political trial in which the rules that govern the practice of justice are not being followed.”
He called for “people of conscience outside of the state to join us as we set up an independent inquiry into the attack on Kennedy Road on September 26; the subsequent demolition of the houses of Abahlali baseMjondolo members, the ongoing threats to Abahlali baseMjondolo members, the role of the police, politicians and courts in this matter.”
On Nov 17 Archbishop Thabo Makgoba endorsed Bishop Phillip’s call for justice for the Kennedy 13, calling on the ANC and the government to “take practical steps to reassure us of their commitment to the democratic rights of shack dwellers."
Democracy in South Africa was “being lacerated by the attacks” on the people of the Kennedy Road, the Archbishop said. “Like the Psalmist, I lament with you and pray that you will not lose hope, and that justice with mercy will be possible in your lifetimes.
“I plead with both Minister Jeff Radebe and President Zuma to usher in democracy for all in South Africa, including these displaced, hurting people of God, who are experiencing neither the freedoms nor the fruits of our democracy,” Archbishop Makgoba said.
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