On Monday, 17 July 2023, Khayalihle Gwabuzela (known as Khaya Ngubane) was found guilty of the murder of Ayanda Ngila, deputy chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo’s eKhenana branch. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) welcomes the Court’s decision as a significant step towards achieving justice and fostering healing for the family of Ayanda Ngila, as well as for the entire eKhenana Commune and the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement. Khaya Ngubane’s sentencing has been set down for 24 July 2023.
Ayanda Ngila was the first of four Abahlali baseMjondolo members killed in 2022, during a wave of repression targeted at the movement. He was gunned down on 8 March 2022 at the eKhenana Commune in Cato Manor, eThekwini by gunmen led by Khaya Ngubane. Ngila was 30 years old at the time of his death. He played a vital role in eKhenana’s communal projects and served as a respected leader in Abahlali baseMjondolo.
The verdict is an encouraging indication that those who perpetrate violence and attempt to stifle the voices of marginalised communities will be held accountable for their actions. While the pain of losing a loved one can never be fully alleviated, knowing that justice has been served can provide some closure and comfort to those affected by this tragedy.
SERI remains mindful of the deaths of Siyabonga Manqele, who was allegedly shot and killed by masked police officers on 11 March 2022 in eNkanini settlement; Nokuthula Mabaso, who was shot and killed on 5 May 2022 in eKhenana; and Lindokuhle Mnguni, who was also shot and killed in eKhenana on 20 August 2022. While the verdict may be a step towards accountability for these attacks, we call upon the relevant authorities to expedite the prosecution process in the cases of Manqele, Mabaso, and Mnguni to ensure that justice is served in these cases as well.
Abahlali has faced widespread repression and targeted assassinations: since 2009 it has lost 24 members to targeted assassinations and excessive force by the police. As a result, many of its leaders have had to leave their homes and go into hiding for their safety. The finding in Ngila’s murder is the second case of the 24 to have resulted in a successful prosecution. Recently, the South African Human Rights Commission sent a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa calling for high-level intervention to investigate the assassinations of Abahlali members. SERI calls for the protection of movement leaders and individuals associated with Abahlali baseMjondolo facing intimidation, violence, and repression.
SERI continues to stand in solidarity with the family of Ayanda Ngila, the community of eKhenana, and the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement as a whole. We echo their calls for justice for other fallen leaders.
- Download the full statement here.