Community leaders targeted on ‘hit list’

Community leader Kenny Tokwe, on the far right, surveys the damage to his home.

Astonishing allegations have emerged that seven Imizamo Yethu community leaders were placed on a list of people to be targeted by a group opposing the City’s superblocking of the fire-ravaged informal settlement.

The homes of two leaders, Kenny Tokwe and Lungisa Bezile, were torched by people allegedly affiliated to the opposition group on Thursday July 20, but according to Mr Tokwe, five other leaders were also singled out and were due to be targeted. These leaders have been in favour of the City’s efforts to bring services to the area in the wake of the March fire.

The ANC constituency office in NR Mandela Road was also torched on Friday.

Despite some leaders saying they had alerted police to what they described as a “hit list”, Hout Bay station spokesperson Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said: “This office bears no knowledge of a hit list.”

“After Lungisa’s and my home were set alight, information we received from the community indicated that Ziyanda Pandle, Beauty Mboma, Vincent Sodlala, Gary Samkelo and Lulama Bini were also going to be attacked,” Mr Tokwe said.

Both national Police Minister Fikile Mbalula and Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille have pointed to the opposition group as being behind last week’s violence, which claimed the life of 19-year-old Siyamthanda Betana and saw five people arrested.

The violence stems from the fact that a minority are “benefitting financially” by illegally renting out properties to foreign nationals, according to the minister, and as a result they do not want the area redeveloped as this would impact on their business.

While a peace deal was brokered between the pro- and anti-superblocking groups on Saturday July 22, Mr Tokwe believed this would be short-lived, as such accords had been struck before only to be reneged on later.

At a press conference on Sunday night, Mr Mbalula said a “rented mob” comprising young people abusing drugs were carrying out the violence on behalf of the faction opposed to superblocking.

According to the pro-superblocking faction, informants in the community had told them that seven leaders were to be targeted.

ANC Proportional Representative councillor Bheki Hadebe confirmed that the list of seven community leaders had come to him via tip-offs from informants.

“We don’t want to jeopardise the lives of those who tipped us off. But even prior to the first house being torched, we went to the police station to tell police this was going to happen. The information proved to be 100% correct, as soon afterwards Kenny and Lungisa’s homes were set alight.”

Ms Mboma, an ANC Western Cape parliamentary constituency office bearer, had already received information that her office in Imizamo
Yethu would be torched on Thursday.

“That information came to me on Thursday already, and I reported it to the authorities. Then the office was burnt down on Friday,” she said.

Mr Samkelo said information from the community indicated that the group would be targeted because of “misinformation” that was being spread.

He, too, said police had been alerted to the leaders on the target list.

“These people (rebel group) were told that we as community members were responsible for the super-blocking, and that was why they wanted to attack us. My house also would have been burnt down, but they realised that if they did that the fire would spread to other parts of IY,” he said.

“The community are not scared to share information with us. Even yesterday (Monday) we received information that this group wants to burn the houses of the IY patrollers and other people as well.”

Mr Bezile said as leaders, they were not living in fear but they were concerned about the safety of their families.

“These people are stopping the progress, are not allowing people to live their lives. People come to Hout Bay to work, and they must be allowed to do this in peace. A small group is holding the rest of Hout Bay hostage.”

The majority of leaders have seemingly put aside their differences in order to ensure Imizamo Yethu is restructured.

Imizamo Yethu Movement leader Mkhululi Ndude said they would “stand together as one”.

“We want superblocking to happen. People can try to stop us but we will not be stopped. We want houses and to be able to move out of the TDAs (temporary relocation areas,” he said.

“This community has already lost so much. They lost houses and people have died. I myself lost my younger brother (Songezo) in the protests.”

Though Mr Tokwe lost his home and many of his belongings to arson, he said he was coming to terms with what happened.

“I always reserve a space in my mind for disappointment. Every battle has its casualties,” he said.

Mr Hadebe said it was people running illegal shebeens and illegal rental schemes who were responsible for the violence.

“These people are turning on their own leaders, people who serve them on a basis. Why would you not want improved services in your
area?”