ESCR-Net condemns murder of Sibonelo Patrick Mpeku, calls for end to attacks against South African human rights defenders
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.
Mpeku was reportedly killed around 11:00pm 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 residents.
ESCR-Net 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.
ESCR-Net 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.