Who fought for land and dignity
1992 – 2022
As one of the leaders of the Abahlali baseMjondolo movement in KwaZulu-Natal, Ayanda Ngila was a dedicated land activist, committed to fighting for dignity and freedom for vulnerable people in South Africa.
Ngila was described by comrades as “a leader in the eKhenana Commune, a brave, brilliant and committed young man, a visionary leader, a shining inspiration.”
A few days before he was killed, Ngila was released after spending months in jail on what the Abahlali movement said were false charges. Both times Ngila was arrested, along with many other activists, he was later released after the state admitted it had no evidence against the activists. On being released Ngila immediately returned to his home, the eKhenana Commune in Cato Manor near Durban in KwaZulu-Natal.
On the night of 6 March the eKhenana community and many Abahlali activists came together to celebrate the release of their comrades, including Ngila. According to people who were present that day it was a joyful occasion where Ngila and his fellow activists re-committed themselves to fighting for dignity for shack dwellers and the landless in South Africa.
Just two days after this Ngila was working in the food garden of the commune when he was approached by four gunmen and shot in front of two of his comrades (both of whom were also later killed). He was 29 years old at the time of his death.
The news of Ngila’s death was met by great sadness. Abahlali released a statement saying: “Ayanda is a martyr in the struggle for land, dignity, freedom and socialism. His name will be celebrated around the world. We will ensure that his life is honoured, and that his spirit lives on in our movement.”
To date only one of Ngila’s four killers has been arrested and prosecuted. On 17 July 2023 Khaya Ngubane was found guilty of the murder of Ayanda Ngila. He was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.
Twenty-three members of Abahlali baseMjondolo have been killed over the past 17 years.
Illustration by Sindiso Nyoni.