Protest violence claims life

“I don’t care if they shoot me. We will continue our struggle.”

These were the words of Imizamo Yethu Movement leader Mkhululi Ndude only hours after he learnt that his brother and fellow movement member, Songezo Ndude, had died, allegedly after being struck by a rubber bullet fired by police during the housing protest on Monday July 3.

Songezo, 26, had been alongside his brother outside the Hout Bay police station when members of the Public Order Policing unit had fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas at protesters shortly after 9am.

Moments after the incident, Sentinel News photographed him clutching his head, which was bleeding profusely. He was handcuffed to a SAPS officer while receiving medical attention.

Mkhululi Ndude was later arrested by police and taken to the cells at Wynberg police station where he spent the night on Monday. He was released on R500 bail at 2pm on Tuesday, and it was only then that he learnt that his brother had succumbed to his head injury at Groote Schuur Hospital in the morning.

Mr Ndude said he had been informed that his brother had been struck by a rubber bullet on the back of his head.

“To me, he was a hero. He is a martyr, and his death must not be in vain. We must continue our fight for land and housing,” he said.

Likening the death of his brother allegedly at the hands of police to Marikana, where 14 mine workers were killed after police opened fire, he said neither he or his brother had been carrying weapons during the protest.

“We had nothing in our hands, no weapons or pangas. But the police shot at us anyway.

“But we will continue our fight. We don’t have guns, but the police can shoot us. Even if they kill me, we will not stop. In South Africa we have the right to protest, and we will protest until our demands are met.”

Western Cape EMS spokesperson Robert Daniels confirmed Songezo had been struck on the head with a rubber bullet. Due to the protests blocking traffic, emergency services could only get him to hospital at 11am, where he was admitted in critical condition.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Traut confirmed that the the Independent Police Investigative Directorate was investigating the incident.

The three-day protest reached a stalemate on Monday as police and protesters waited for the arrival of Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille. Protesters demanded that she address their grievances in person.

While she eventually arrived late in the afternoon, Mr Ndude had already been arrested and taken off to Wynberg.

“They (police) arrested me because I wanted to find out what happened to other residents who had been arrested. I went to the police station to enquire about this, and then they shot rubber bullets and teargas again, and that’s when I was arrested,” he said.

As news of Songezo’s death spread around Hout Bay on Tuesday night, there were fears protests would spark off again.

A prayer meeting attended by friends and family of the Ndudes was held at the Hout Bay sports complex later saw mourners marching to the police station. According to well-placed sources, some mourners had taken exception to posts on social media suggesting that Songezo had been killed by a brick thrown by protesters and not a rubber bullet.

Hout Bay Organised administrator Matt Mercer moved quickly to diffuse the situation.

“This earnest plea goes out to all people of Hout Bay. This is a time for calm,” Mr Mercer wrote.

“To my black brothers and sisters I want to say that most of us feel badly for the situation you find yourselves in. Many people stand with you and want to help you with government, like when we stood together after the fires.

“The death of young Songezo Ndude is a tragedy we will mourn no matter how it happened.

“To my white brothers and sisters I ask you to be sensitive and empathetic. In the last few days many of us have been frightened and have posted that fear. I am telling you now that some of those insensitive posts are now provoking the situation.

“Just as the legitimate protesters should not be judged by the actions of a few rioters, I must tell my brothers and sisters from IY that we have a small crowd of white people that make stupid posts without thinking. Those people are allowing fear and ignorance to rule their lives. Please know these people are the minority and there are far more good people in the white community than there are bad.

“Let us end these violent protests now before anyone else is hurt. Let us stand as one to solve this peacefully.”

Due to the provocative nature of some posts, Steve Belcher, administrator of the Hout Bay Complete Facebook group, also locked down all posts pending approval following Songezo’s death.