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Durban - A Cato Crest community leader caught up in the land invasion chaos that has gripped the area was gunned down at a local tavern at the weekend.
Thembinkosi Qumbelo, who was president of the Cato Crest Residential Association, had gone to Silwane Tavern at about 8.30pm on Friday to watch soccer when he was shot, tavern owner Sipho Mthethwa said yesterday.
Mthethwa said he was not at his tavern at the time, but was told that Qumbelo had been standing in a passage outside when four men arrived and shot him from behind before fleeing. Other patrons ran for their lives, he said, adding that about 10 spent cartridges were found at the scene.
Qumbelo had been trying last week to get the eThekwini Municipality to allocate council houses to shack dwellers whose homes were demolished to make way for a housing development in Cato Crest.
About 1 000 displaced shack dwellers had invaded land in adjoining Sherwood on Wednesday, and were determined not to move. They had dubbed the area “Marikana” after the scene of last year’s Lonmin mine massacre.
In an interview with the Daily News the same day, Qumbelo had described the situation as tense, saying residents had not been provided with alternative accommodation when their shacks were destroyed.
He had said the failure of a community committee to consult adequately with the affected residents had fuelled the land invasions.
Qumbelo had asked his local ANC ward committee to give him an opportunity to address the invaders, but the invaders had chased him away.
A day before Qumbelo’s killing, another member of the committee was shot in the arm.
The Ward 29 member, who asked not to be named, said he feared for his life after he was ambushed at his home.
“I thought I was dying when I heard a number of gunshots fired through the window at about 2am,” he said. “It has never crossed our minds that we could be attacked and probably killed.”
He said he was shocked to learn that Qumbelo had been shot dead. “We worked together in the ward committee meetings. It is not easy to go back home, if discharged, without knowing who is behind these attacks,” he said. “My plea to the eThekwini council is to investigate and arrest these people.”
Mthethwa, who is also a member of the ANC ward committee, said the killing of Qumbelo had traumatised him. He described Qumbelo as a “brave, loyal leader of the people” who had recently rejoined the ANC after a short stint with the National Democratic Convention, an IFP splinter party.
He said it was painful having to wipe the blood of his friend from the floor. “We are coping though. It is not easy to say who did this,” he said, explaining the group of invaders had been infiltrated by outsiders.
“We visited his (Qumbelo’s) family as the ANC to pray with them in this difficult time,” Mthethwa said.
Approached for comment, Ward 29 (Mayville, Bonella) councillor Zanele Ndzoyiya said she had no time for an interview as she was in a meeting with local residents.
SAPS spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane, said police were investigating the killing, but that the motive was not yet known.
No arrests have been made.