The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation expresses its condolences to the family and friends of slain community activist, Shabir Manjoo.
Manjoo was killed in a shootout, following what was reported to have been an attempted robbery.
Having had one of the largest funerals in Lenasia, Manjoo was noted for his dedication to serving the community. “Shabir Majoo has been hailed a servant of the community in both life and in death. He gave his life for this community in the fight against crime,” said Neeshan Balton, Director of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation.
“We call on the police to conduct an efficient investigation into the incident. We also call on the judiciary to impose the toughest possible sentences on criminals who are found guilty of terrorising our communities,” Balton added.
“At the same time, we must call on the community to respect the rule of the law. We cannot allow ourselves to act in the name of fighting crime, by perpetrating crime. If we ignore the boundaries of the law, then we send incorrect perceptions about what is permissible and what is not. It may well be that we set a standard where people are randomly accused and punished, without any proper formal judicial procedures.”
While the Foundation acknowledged the anger of the community following the incident, it urged residents to refrain from inflaming racial tensions. “Anger cannot justify racism,” Balton stated. “The Foundation strongly condemns the racist remarks on social media that seek to demonise African people. Crime affects people of all races, religions and classes, across geographic boundaries. Similarly, crime is perpetrated by individuals of all races, ethnicities, religions and backgrounds.”
Balton referred to a 2009 research piece by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), in which evidence indicated that black people are disproportionately the victims of violent crime in South Africa.
“To condemn and generalise all African people as being criminals is a most heinous form of racism. It shows up the narrow-mindedness of the individuals making such remarks. These comments will do little to prevent crime in our community. It only seeks to inflame racial tension, at a time when our country can ill-afford it,” he said.
“We would also like to address the perception by some, that Lenasia ‘belongs’ to Indian people. It does not. Lenasia was regarded as an Indian township under the apartheid government’s Group Areas Act. Lenasia is now part of a democratic South Africa, and this country belongs to all who live in it, black and white. Our struggle stalwarts sacrificed immensely for this ideal, and we find it outrageous that there are elements who have hinted that this area should be something of a racially exclusive homeland. Such elements have no place in a democratic society,” Balton added.
The ISS report further indicated that despite collective concern about crime, far too little has been done “to mobilise people across class, gender, national and racial barriers to advocate for improved crime reduction strategies”.
Commenting on this, Balton said, “When particular groups of people think that they alone are targets, it automatically means that in their efforts to combat crime, they rule out working with people who they don’t think of as ‘their own’. In this way, they effectively narrow the pool of people who could be drawn into fighting crime. It is impractical and impossible to tackle crime in South Africa if we do not include the broadest range of people in this fight. So, we encourage residents to instead of demonising one race or another, work hand in hand. It is only through progressive values that encourage united effort that we can fight crime and triumph over the various ills that beset our society,” Balton said.
Balton indicated that the killing of Manjoo comes at a difficult time, not only for the community of Lenasia, but for the country as a whole. “The increase we are seeing in robberies coincides with increasing poverty levels in South Africa, along with heightened desperation to make an income. While poverty cannot justify crime, and more so, violent crime, it must be taken into account. In light of this, combatting crime does not only involve responding to robberies, but it also means actively addressing inequality and poverty, through social upliftment projects. The community of Lenasia has been at the forefront of such work, and we encourage residents to continue helping the poorest of the poor in our country.”
“If we really want to emulate the likes of Manjoo, who was hailed as a ‘people’s person’, then the least we can do is ensure that in our efforts to tackle crime, we are prepared to work with all. Communities who are united around common values across barriers, are far harder to break than those united over something as superficial as race or class,” Balton concluded.