South Africa: Democracy’s everyday death -- the ANC's coup in Kennedy Road; Shack dwellers: `Our movement is under attack!'
By Nigel Gibson and Raj Patel
October 8, 2009 -- Pambazuka News -- You don’t need presidential palaces, or generals riding in tanks, or even the CIA to make a coup happen. Democracy can be overthrown with far less pomp, fewer props and smaller bursts of state violence. But these quieter coups are no less deadly for democracy.
At the end of September 2009, just such a coup took place in South Africa. It wasn’t the kind involving parliament or the inept and corrupt head of the African National Congress (ANC) Jacob Zuma. Quite the opposite. It involved a genuinely democratic and respected social movement, the freely elected governing committee of the shack settlement at Kennedy Road in Durban. And this peaceful democracy was overthrown by the South African government.
First, some background. As South Africa prepares to host the 2010 soccer World Cup, the poorest South Africans are still waiting for the end of apartheid’s predations. The country is spending US$1.1 billion just to build new stadiums, while those who fought apartheid wait in shack settlements for running water and electricity. Levels of human development are now lower than in 1994, and South Africa has overtaken Brazil as the country with the widest gap between rich and poor.
But not everyone is waiting patiently, hands outstretched, for the government to drop something into their palms. Some people, particularly those living in shack communities, have organised to bring the dividends of housing, water, education, healthcare, employment and food to their communities. When some communities organised to protest against their government, using the freedoms enshrined in one of the most open and supportive constitutions to be found in any modern democracy, the government responded by initiating its bloody coup.
In the middle of the night on September 26, men armed with guns, knives and even a sword, descended on Kennedy Road, a shack settlement housing about 7000 people. These men chanted slogans of ethnic cleansing, pitting Zulu against Pondo. With these words, they summoned an ethnic politics that was unthinkable even in apartheid’s darkest days. Even the 1980s battles between the Inkatha Freedom Party and the ANC were political rather than ethnic clashes. But under Jacob Zuma’s South Africa, the Zulu nationalism that was once anathema to the ANC has now become its standard operating procedure.
Four people were killed. The violence continued under the eyes of the police and local ANC officials. Once it was over, the democratic leaders of the Kennedy Road Development Committee were arrested (even though many weren’t in the settlement at the time of the attacks). Thousands of shack dwellers have now fled the settlement and many shacks have been destroyed.
It has now become clear that the thugs were backed by the local branch of the ANC and its leaders. Jackson Gumede, the chairperson of the branch executive committee of the ANC in the electoral ward containing Kennedy Road, has now taken over the settlement where those remaining live in a state of fear. The ANC KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has also become a willing partner.
It has also become clear that the target of the attacks is the autonomous and grassroots democratic shackdweller organisation – Abahlali baseMjondolo – which has grown over the past four years into the largest poor people’s movement in South Africa. Abahlali has become a significant thorn in the side of the ANC provincial government in KwaZulu-Natal.
What particularly irks the ANC is Abahlali’s refusal to let the shack dwellers continue to be a vote bank for the ANC at election time. Rather than supporting any political party, Abahlali has promoted a ``No house, no land, no vote'' policy. As well as rejecting the legitimacy of the local ANC councillor, Yacoob Baig, Abahlali has taken the provincial government to court over the constitutionality of the government’s Elimination of Slums Act and spoken out against the forced relocation of shack dwellers to transit or temporary camps outside the urban areas.
Abahlali have also had successes, which have annoyed local politicians. Through their activism, Abahlali activists have forced the Durban municipality to agree to upgrade some of their settlements. Controls over the settlement means control over the disbursement of funds. This is the prize that Yakoob Baig and Jackson Gumede covet.
The ANC’s decision to destroy a grassroots poor people’s movement has been condemned around the world. The South Africa Council of Churches (SACC) has called the incident ``an attack on democracy'' and has issued a statement of alarm at how community leaders are being criminalised. Bishop Rubin Phillip, the chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and Anglican Bishop of Natal, who had visited Kennedy Road, was ``torn with anguish'' by the attack and spoke of the real social hope that Abahlali was creating. Around the world and in South Africa statements of solidarity and outrage continue to pour in and while these pressures may give the ANC pause in its actions against Abahlali, it is also clear that the ANC is not in control of the violence that it has unleashed.
At the settlement anyone associated with Abahlali has been threatened with violence and forced to leave. Already 2000 people have been left homeless. S’bu Zikode, the elected chair of Abahlali, is now in hiding after receiving a number of death threats. Writing on September 29, Zikode understood that the attack was an attack on the voice of ordinary poor people: ``This attack is an attempt to terrorise that voice back into the dark corners. It is an attempt to turn the frustration and anger of the poor onto the poor so that we will miss the real enemy.''
He ends by not only calling for solidarity but asking ``for close and careful scrutiny into the nature of democracy in South Africa''.
Zikode is right, of course. This is why he has been targeted by the militia, and why his safety must be guaranteed. And the attack augurs ill for South Africa’s future. The demons of ethnic hatred had no harbour in South Africa. But once unleashed, they could very well tear the ``Rainbow Nation'' apart. Without swift and transparent justice to right this grave wrong, the future looks grim. History makes one thing very clear: small coups beget bigger ones.
[This article first appeared in Pambazuka News. Nigel Gibson is a visiting research fellow at the School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and the author of the forthcoming book, Fanonian Practices in South Africa. Raj Patel is an honorary research fellow at the School of Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and the author of the forthcoming book The Value of Nothing.]
Abahlali baseMjondolo: `Our movement is under attack'
By the Kennedy Road Development Committee, Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) and the Poor People’s Alliance
October 6, 2009 -- Abahlali baseMjondolo -- We are under attack. We have been attacked physically with all kinds of weapons -- guns and knives, even a sword. We have been driven from our homes and our community. The police did nothing to stop the attacks on us despite our calls for help. Four people were killed. The attacks, which began on the night of Saturday September 26, were carried out by local ANC members together with shebeen [sly grog shops] owners from the Kennedy Road settlement. They were saying that our movement was ``selling them'' to the AmaMpondo. It is a fact that our movement, at the local branch level and at the movement level, has no concern for where people were born or where their ancestors were born. We are a movement of the poor and that means that we do not make divisions between the poor. We have always been clear about this. This is our politics and we will stick to it.
We have been told that earlier in the day the local ANC branch had a meeting. We are told that there they decided to take up a new operation – Siyabangena (we are entering). We are told that there they decided to kill Mashumi Figlan, chairperson of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC) and deputy chairperson of our movement. We are told that they decided to cut off his head and leave it in the community hall so that everyone would see that he was dead and not missing.
When the police did arrive they only came with one car and one van. They only took statements from our attackers and they arrested eight people linked to the KRDC. They took no statements from us and to this day none of our attackers have been arrested. Some of the people that they arrested had in fact been performing the imfene dance at a public performance in Claremont on Saturday night. The arrests were clearly political and aimed at destabilising the movement in Kennedy Road. This is not the first time that most of the Kennedy Road leadership have been arrested for clearly political reasons. In 2007 the Kennedy Six, five of whom were elected members of the KRDC, were arrested on false charges and only released on bail after a hunger strike. All charges against them were later dropped because the state had no evidence.
On the morning after the attack ANC officials arrived in the settlement. There were no police to protect us while we were being attacked but many, many police came with them. While the police and the officials were there the same people who had attacked us the night before demolished our homes and looted them. At least 27 houses were destroyed and many more were looted. They all belonged to people elected to positions in the KRDC or Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM). The police did nothing to stop the destruction of houses and the looting from houses. Supt. Glen Nayager and ANC ward councillor Yakoob Baig were personally at Kennedy while our homes were destroyed. Baig said, on record, that ``harmony'' has been restored now that the ``Abahlali criminals'' were gone.
After the politicians and the police departed from Kennedy Road the settlement was left in the hands of the local ANC – armed young men patrolled and made it clear, via death threats, that AbM was now banned from Kennedy Road. They also made it clear that independent media were also banned. Looting and various kinds of intimidation continued. The eviction of some of our leaders and the arrest of others was followed by the destruction of our office leaving us without access to email and telephone. When our members arrived from other settlements to try and save our records and banners in the office they were threatened with death.
To this day none of our attackers have been arrested. The ANC has installed them in authority in Kennedy Road (without holding any elections) and is presenting them to the media as ``the community'' or as ``community representatives''. Many of the ANC leaders who have spoken in the community or to the media have attacked us and lied about us while not condemning our attackers. On September 28 Bhekisisa Stalin Mncube, spokesperson for the provincial minister for safety and security Willies Mchunu, sent out a press release on behalf of Mchunu and the provincial police commissioner Hamilton Ngidi saying that “the provincial government has moved swiftly to liberate a Durban community (Kennedy Road)”. Mncube added a note to his email threatening that AbM president S’bu Zikode may soon be arrested. In this statement it is quite clear that at least some people in the police and the provincial ANC have enthusiastically endorsed the violent attack on our movement.
Following the attacks on our movement Nigel Gumde, head of housing
in the eThekwini Municipality, has said, on record, that the government has
“a plan to eradicate shacks”, that “anyone coming into informal
settlements must accept that plan” and that it will be necessary to
“jail people to get development going”. He is clearly trying to
criminalise debate about government policy. How can debate about
government policy be banned in a democracy? He has also said that the imfene
dance is part of the problem and must be investigated. How can the
cultural expression of a group of people be considered a problem in
Since then there have been all kinds of other attacks on our movements – we have been lied about, slandered and defamed by various people within the ANC. We consider these lies to be a way of trying to justify what was done to us and to our movement. We consider these lies to be a way of trying to make the victims of a terrible attack look as if they are themselves the problem. We consider these lies to be a way to encourage further attacks.
What happened in Kennedy Road was a coup – a violent replacement of a democratically elected community organisation. The ANC have taken over everything that we built in Kennedy Road.
We always allowed free political activity in Kennedy and all settlements in which AbM candidates have been elected to leadership. Now we are banned.
We do not use violence to build support. We use open discussion. Now we are violently banned.
Our members continue to receive death threats in and outside of Kennedy Road. Everyone knows that if you speak for Zikode or AbM in Kennedy Road you will be attacked. And S’bu has received a number of death threats and threats to his family, including his children, via anonymous calls since he was evicted from the settlement by the ANC and shebeen owner’s mob. Last night five men in a white car arrived at his sister’s place looking for S’bu and his family. They asked where S’bu and his wife and children are staying now. We don’t know who they were but they were clearly hostile.
The ANC continue to attack Zikode by all means. They say that he
doesn’t follow the ANC code of conduct, that he is stopping
development, that he has a big house in Umhlanga. The first one is true
– that is his right. That is the right of all of us. We make no apology
for this. The rest is just wild defamation.
On Sunday Willies Mchunu, Nigel Gumde and others held a big meeting in the Kennedy Road Hall. Our attackers were all sitting there. People from the ANC in Sydenham Heights and the Foreman Road settlement were sitting there pretending to be from Kennedy Road. All kinds of lies were told.
The Kennedy 8 are currently being held in the Sydenham Police station and will appear in court again on Thursday. We are told that the ANC is organising across all wards to get their members to the court to demand that the Kennedy 8 do not receive bail. This is not the behaviour of an organisation committed to truth and justice. They should, instead, be asking for a fair and credible investigation into all the acts of violence, theft, destruction and intimidation that have occurred. This is our demand. They should make it their demand too.
`We are all Abahlali baseMjondolo'
At a time when the Kennedy Road settlement is being targeted all the settlements affiliated to our movement across the country say ``we are all Kennedy Road – if Kennedy Road has committed the crime of organising independently from the ANC and speaking out for justice then we are all criminals''.
At a time when Abahlali baseMjondolo is under attack all the movements that we work with in the Poor People’s Alliance, and others too, say ``we are all Abahlali baseMjondolo – if Abahlali baseMjondolo has committed the crime of allowing the poor to organise the poor for justice then we are all criminals''. At a time when threats are being made on the life of S’bu Zikode, and his family (including his children) and when the ANC are waging campaign of slander and vilification against him we say ``we are all S’bu Zikode – if S’bu Zikode has committed the crime of telling the truth about the lives of the poor and the realities of democracy in South Africa then we are all criminals''.
We want to make some comments about the ongoing and all out attacks on S’bu Zikode from the ANC.
We elected S’bu to represent us. He did not want to be our leader. He never calls himself a leader – people call him a leader. He doesn’t live in a fancy house and drive a fancy car to talk about the poor on stages and in hotels. He lives in a shack and works in the community with the community to give us courage to speak for ourselves. Last year he wanted to step down from the pesidency of the movement. We mobilised for two weeks to persuade him to remain as the president.
We know that two weeks before the attack Jackson Gumede, chairperson of the branch executive committee of the ANC in Ward 25, had said that the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) office would soon be an ANC office. We know that at the same time John Mchunu, chairperson of the ANC in eThekwini, accused us of trying to destabilise the country.
We are not a political party. We have never been a political party. We are a poor people’s movement – we are looking for justice, not political power. We have never stood in elections. We don’t even vote because we don’t care about that kind of power. We care about building the power of the community to reduce the gap between ordinary people on the one side and the rich and the politicians on the other side. But the politicians are ignorant. They don’t know what a social movement is. They don’t understand that there can be a politics outside of party politics. In eShowe the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) recently attacked us for being ANC. When we first started our movement in Durban in 2005 the ANC attacked us for being IFP. Now the ANC are claiming that we are COPE [Congress of the People, a recent split from the ANC led by those loyal to former South African president Thabo Mbeki]. The ANC have seen the huge support that we have and they fear that S’bu will stand in the local government elections.
They also fear us because we have exposed so much corruption in places like Foreman Road, Motala Heights, Mpola, Siyanda, eShowe and Howick. They also fear us because we have stood with many other communities who are opposing injustice, such as people in Umlazi and in eMacambini.
They are embarrassed that shack dwellers, ordinary people like us, took the ANC government to the constitutional court. And the judgment is coming this week. The sad thing is that if we find that we have won we will have no place to slaughter a cow.
They see the good relationship that we have developed with city officials during our long negotiations from late 2007 as a threat. They see our good relationship with the provincial HOD for housing as a threat.
We are wondering if democracy still exists
This is not the first time that we have asked ourselves this question. We asked this question when our march was illegally banned and we were attacked in Foreman Road in 2005. We asked ourselves this question when people who challenged the ANC in local government elections in E-Section of Umlazi were assassinated in 2006. We asked this question in 2006 when S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were arrested, beaten and tortured while trying to attend a radio interview. We were still asking ourselves this question when our peaceful march was shot at by the police in 2007.
The ANC is about comradeism. It is about order and protocol. You must follow the mandate and the mandate always comes from above. AbM can just say ``No!''. The new ANC committee members that has been put in place in Kennedy Road will find that they are just expected to be puppets. They will find that they are just expected to take orders from above. Zikode had the strength to take the side of the people. They will not have that strength. Even they will realise the value of the river when drought comes.
Our movement is growing. When the time is right we will go back to Kennedy Road. We are prepared to go toe to toe with the ANC but we will not use violence. We will use open and free discussion on the realities of our country. We will counter lies with truth. We will counter a living politics with politician’s politics.
People who belong to prisons must go to prisons. People who belong to Kennedy must go to Kennedy.
Accusations against the movement
At a time when we are being attacked our attackers, and those who support them, should be subject to intense public scrutiny. However the politicians are doing everything in their power to make us, the victims of this attack, subject to very critical public scrutiny. The most incredible lies are being told about us and our movement. At the same time our attackers are being installed in power in Kennedy Road and introduced to the media as ``the community''.
Many accusations have been made against the movement by the ANC in recent days. Each day new accusations are made. We will address the main accusations here but we request all journalists to please check with us before reporting any accusation made by the police or the ANC (or people presented by the ANC and the police as ``community representatives'' -- these people may well be the ones that attacked us) as if it were a fact. We can answer any other questions at the press conference tomorrow.
1. The Safety and Security Committee. It has been said that this is an illegitimate structure that has no right to exist. The truth is that this committee was set up in partnership with the police at the time when the state stopped criminalising our movement and we were successfully negotiating with the state on a whole range of demands. One of our long standing demands has been for equal and fair access to policing. In the past we were denied this and we were all treated as criminals. However when the state began to negotiate with us, a process that began in late 2007, we were able to negotiate with the local police too. The committee came out of those talks. The committee is a sub-committee of the KRDC, which is an elected structure. The police were present at the launch of the committee. Supt. Glen Nayager was there personally, and police attended its meetings. Representatives from nearby settlements that are affiliated to the ANC also attended its meetings such as Majozi from Quarry Road and Simphiwe from Palmiet.
This is all detailed in our minutes of those meetings, and it can also be attested to by many witnesses. It was also covered in the local press – for instance there was an article in the Weekly Gazette of Overport with a picture of the committee and Supt. Nayager. There is nothing unusual about an elected community organisation setting up an anti-crime committee with the police. The government has asked all communities to do this. In fact on the same day that we were attacked Willies Mchunu called for a ``people’s war against crime''. The day after we were attacked he called the Safety and Security Committee an illegitimate and criminal structure. This was a lie.
2. The so-called ``curfew''. It has been said that the Safety and Security Committee imposed a curfew on the settlement which meant that people could not watch TV or cook after 7pm at night. This is also a lie. The truth is that the committee did impose a closing time on shebeens. They had previously been running 24 hours a day. There had been complaints about the noise for years and some of the women comrades in our movement had also argued that alcohol abuse is linked to domestic violence. Also, in a situation where there are so many fires, alcohol abuse can put the safety of the whole community at risk.
But the main reason for instituting closing times was that since the national election campaign there have been ethnic tensions in Kennedy Road, and in other nearby settlements too. There have been fights and even murders. These fights were all alcohol related and so for the safety of the community we thought that it was necessary to put limits on shebeen hours. The police were present at the meeting where this decision was taken. They suggested that the closing time should be 8 pm. We suggested that it should be 10 pm and in the end it was set at 10 pm.
It is true that the shebeen owners did not like this. But anyone who did not like it could elect new people with different views to the KRDC in the next election in November, or call for an urgent general meeting and see if there was support to recall the people on the committee and have a new election or take up the issue with the police. Some of the ANC leaders have spoken as if setting closing times for shebeens is some sort of terrible human rights violation that justified the attacks on us. They speak as though the shebeen owners rather than the people who have been attacked and driven from their homes are the real victims. They speak as through the right to drink all night is more important than basic political freedoms and basic safety.
3. AbM is stopping development. Our movement was formed to struggle for development. We struggle for development everyday. But development is not a neutral thing. Some kinds of development are in the interests of the rich and against the interests of the poor. Therefore our movement is specifically committed to struggling for development that is in the interests of the poor.
This means that we will oppose a forced removal from a well-located shack close to schools, work, health care and so on to a ``transit camp’' (which is really just a government shack) in the middle of nowhere. This does not make us unique. Poor people’s organisations across South Africa, like the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town and the Landless People’s Movement in Johannesburg take exactly the same position. Poor people’s movements around the world take the same position. Academics and NGOs around the world take the same position.
Our achievements in the struggle for pro-poor development are a matter of record. In late 2007 the government stopped criminalising our movement and began to negotiate with us. After more than a year of negotiations we signed a memorandum of understating with the eThekwini Municipality in February 2009. That MOU commits the city to provide services to 14 settlements affiliated to the movement and to explore the upgrading of three settlements where they currently are in terms of the government’s 2004 Breaking New Ground (BNG) policy. This MOU is not a secret – it has been covered in the media and we can make it available.
The MOU is a major breakthrough for pro-poor development in Kennedy Road, in Durban and in South Africa. It is a major breakthrough for Kennedy Road because in the late 1980s and early 1990s the Urban Foundation had agreed to upgrade the settlement where it was and even started the work – this is when the hall was built. But in 1995 the then Durban City Council cancelled the upgrade and the plan for Kennedy Road was changed to forced removal to a human dumping ground. We won the right to the city for the residents of Kennedy Road. The MOU is also a major breakthrough for Durban because is commits the city to developing settlements in the city instead of forcing people out to rural human dumping grounds. It is a major breakthrough for the country because if followed up it would be the first time that the BNG policy would actually have been implemented.
Negotiations on implementing this deal were continuing right up to the attacks and in fact have continued after the attacks. We have also been negotiating for people who cannot be included in the upgrade to be voluntarily relocated to Cornubia which, because it is near Umhlanga Rocks, will have good access to work, schools, clinics etc. We have worked incredibly hard to achieve all these victories for the development of the people of Kennedy Road. The KRDC and AbM signed that MOU. The victory is ours. It came from our blood (when we were being repressed) and our sweat (when we were negotiating).
4. AbM has taken the government to court. This is true. We have often taken the government to court. We have taken the government to court to protect our basic political freedoms such as the right to march, we have taken the government to court to prevent them from illegally evicting us and we have also taken the government to court to have the Slums Act declared unconstitutional. It is being said that this is an attempt to stop development. When the Slums Bill came out we read it together, line by line, and we developed a clear critique of it. We are not alone in our critique of the Slums Act. The Act has been widely criticised as anti-poor, even by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing and our actions against it have been widely supported. We have the same right as everyone else to form opinions about government policy and legislation and to take our views before the courts for their consideration. Taking the government to court is a basic democratic right. It is not a crime – but killing people, chasing people from their homes and their community, destroying their homes and looting their goods and using death threats to ban a democratic political organisation from an area are all crimes.
5. We have travelled overseas. We do not hide anything about these discussions. We have gone overseas recently. We have been invited by churches to visit England and North America. We go there to speak the truth. That is our right.
6. We have international support. It is true that we have supporters in other countries. Most of these people are the same people who supported the struggle against apartheid. They are supporting our struggle because our struggle is clearly just. There are also some young people who see that there is injustice in our world, see that we are standing up for justice and want to work with us. Some have come to live in our settlements for a while to see how we make our homemade politics.
7. We have money. When we started our movement we had no money. We had nothing but our will. In recent years we have got a little support, mostly from churches. We have always refused money when we have felt that people were trying to buy over movement. We have never been paid to struggle. We are elected to positions and we serve as volunteers. We still have to work for a living. Our movement is not professionalised. The money that we have got in recent years is very small – before the attack we had an office but the phone was often cut off because we couldn’t pay the bill. All our records were kept in the office. Anyone could see them at any time. We also have a list of all the people who have supported us materially on our website. We note that unlike us the ANC refuses to be open about its funders.
8. We did not attend the meeting at Kennedy on Sunday. Of course we didn’t attend the meeting at Kennedy on Sunday. We received no proper invitation to it. And who in their right mind would attend a meeting after receiving death threats from the same people that would be at the meeting? Who in their right mind would attend a meeting where the people who had just destroyed their home would be presented as ``the community''? Who in their right mind would attend a meeting where their supporters would be too scared to attend with them and too scared to speak if they were there.
That meeting was like an ANC rally and it would have been used as a kangaroo court if we had gone there. There were people there from Sydenham Heights and Foreman Road who were speaking as if they were from Kennedy! At this meeting the ANC announced all the victories that we have struggled for, and worked for over so many years, as if they were theirs! The ANC has a long history of hijacking people’s struggles and claiming them as their own.
1. There needs to be an immediate restoration of democracy in Kennedy Road. This includes:
• The right of everyone who was chased out of the settlement or displaced by the violence to return to the settlement and to be safe in the settlement.
• The right of Abahlali baseMjondolo to work in the settlement without fear of attack or intimidation or slander.
• The restoration of our office to us and a guarantee that the office will be safe.
• The disbanding of the unelected structures that the ANC has instituted in the settlement and the return to authority of the democratically elected organisation that was running the settlement before the attacks or the holding of genuinely free and fair and safe elections in the settlement. If the democratically elected organisation (the KRDC) that was displaced in the coup is returned to its rightful place the next election will be in November.
2. There needs to be a genuinely independent and credible investigation into the attacks at Kennedy Road (including the demolition of people’s houses, the looting, the banning of AbM from the settlement and the ongoing threats to AbM members in and out of the settlement) that includes an examination of the role played by everyone including the police, the local ANC and the comments and actions of senior ANC people in the Municipality and the Province after the attacks. It must include fairness and justice for the Kennedy 8.
3. There must be compensation and support for those who have been injured and traumatised, those who have had to flee the settlement, those whose homes and businesses have been destroyed and those who have lost everything that they own.
4. There must be a crystal clear commitment from the ANC, from the top to the bottom, to the right of all people to organise independently of the ANC, to protest against the ANC, to challenge the ANC’s understanding of development and to take the ANC government to court.
5. The ANC must make a public commitment backed up with real action to ensure the safety of S’bu Zikode and all other AbM leaders.
6. There must be genuine and safe negotiation on the way forward between the ANC and AbM. These negotiations should be mediated by someone that we all trust. We know that there are many democrats in the ANC and we hope that they will prevail over those who have cast us as enemies to be attacked and eradicated by all means. Kangaroo courts are not places for real negotiations.
7. In yesterday’s Isolezwe the provincial housing minister said that she will provide housing for those who have been displaced. We welcome this announcement but we demand that those who have had their homes destroyed and all their things stolen should be at the top of the list. This includes S’bu Zikode, Mashumi Figlan and the KRDC.
Many people have contacted us asking what they can do to support us. We want to thank all those who are supporting us – especially the church leaders and all those comrades who organised protests in London and in iRhini. We are making the following suggestions:
1. Affirm our right to exist and our right to be critical of the government.
2. Organise in support of our demands.
3. Support those of us who have lost their homes and all their possessions with material support.
4. Support those of us who are traumatised, including the children, with counselling and spiritual support.
5. Organise serious discussions about the nature of democracy in our country – and include delegates from poor people’s organisations in those discussions on the basis of equality.
Contact details for further information and comment
The Kennedy Road Development Committee
Mzwake Mdlalose: 072 132 8454
Anton Zamisa: 079 380 1759
Bheki Simelane: 078 598 9491
Nokutula Manyawo: 083 949 1379
Abahlali baseMjondolo leaders from other settlements in Durban
Alson Mkhize: 082 760 8429
Shamita Naidoo: 074 315 7962
Mnikelo Ndabankulu: 079 745 0653
Zodwa Nsibande: 082 830 2707
Mazwi Nzimande: 074 222 8601
Ma Shezi: 076 333 9386
The Poor People’s Alliance
Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape – Mzonke Poni: 073 256 2036
The Landless People’s Movement (Gauteng) – Maureen Mnisi: 082 337 4514
The Rural Network (KZN) – Reverend Mavuso: 072 279 2634
The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign – Ashraf Cassiem: 076 186 1408
Anti-Privatisation Forum: `In defence of democracy'
October 5, 2009 -- The first few months of the Zuma Presidency has not interrupted the war on the poor. What took place last week in Kennedy Road, Durban, is rather signalling that the violence deployed against organisations of the poor is being escalated. A meeting of the Abahlali baseMjondolo (AbM) affiliate, Kennedy Road Development Committee (KRDC), on Sunday September 27, was attacked by a militia, killing comrades Mthokozisi Ndlovu and Ndumiso Mnguni. The office of Abahlali and fifteen homes belonging to leading members of the movement were demolished before the attack and several of the ABM’s leaders remain in hiding. Over a thousand, mostly Xhosa-speaking residents, were also forced to flee their homes.
According to eyewitness reports, when the police arrived on the morning after the attack started, they arrested none of the perpetrators of the violence. Instead, they arrested eight members of Abahlali who were in Claremont at the time of the attack, for the murder of the two comrades in Kennedy Road. It was further reported that the police then watched passively over the next several days as the militia, shouting things like ``Kennedy Road is for Zulus”, targeted amaPondo and particularly Abahlali members. The lives of four more people were claimed during this organised pogrom and many more residents forced to flee. By the time the police eventually responded to the crisis on Thursday (October 1) last week, the chairperson of the local ANC branch, Jackson Gumede, was in effective control of the Kennedy Road community, demanding that residents produce their ANC membership cards.
Now, over a week after the initial attack, the militia still holds Kennedy Road in the grip of terror. Over a thousand residents remain displaced and AbM's leadership is still in hiding. The police have made no progress on the charges laid against the attackers. The eight KRDC members arrested for murder will have their bail hearing this Thursday, October 8. AbM reports that their members will spend this week mobilising support for the liberation of their falsely accused comrades. Returning children to school, rebuilding destroyed homes and assisting all those forced to flee will also be priorities.
It is clear to the APF that what has transpired at Kennedy Road is a patent case of politically and ethnically motivated violence designed to ``clear out'' AbM and destroy the inclusive and active community that has been built over the last several years. As a movement that itself has experienced the cold hand of party and state-sponsored violence and injustice, the APF admires the strength and resilience of AbM to continue the struggle and resolutely face up to their oppressors. The support that AbM has received from academics, the Anti-Eviction Campaign in Cape Town, the Unemployed Movement, the Rural Network and various churches shows clearly that the shack dwellers are not the criminals the police and ANC councillors have so pathetically tried to portray them as. We share the conviction that the attempts to dislodge AbM will fail.
In joining the calls already made for a complete end to the violence and intimidation as well as the exposure and prosecution of the attackers and their handlers, the APF further demands that Abahlali, along with all residents forced to flee, be allowed to return to Kennedy Road without hindrance to reconstruct their homes and lives as well as to organise freely. Democracy is not the preserve of self-appointed elites and their lackeys. Alongside the AbM, the APF will continue to practice and defend our democratic freedoms and fight against reactionary attempts to divide the poor and sow terror and fear. The APF pledges its full solidarity with Abahlali.
November 1, 2009
Homeless carted out of Cape Town and Johannesburg for World Cup
South African cities are planning to create “concentration camps” to house thousands of poor people well away from the football stadiums where next year’s World Cup will be staged, charities say.
Human rights groups in Cape Town and Johannesburg have expressed outrage at leaked plans to clear the streets of the homeless during the tournament. Councils in Johannesburg and Durban have told charities that street children and the destitute will be “compassionately” relocated out of city centres from next month.
Bill Rogers, from the Addiction Action Campaign, which helps thousands of drug abusers in Johannesburg, said the city had asked charities for assistance with the scheme.
He said: “We’ve been made aware of the city’s plans to move thousands of homeless people to shelters away from the city.”
Fifa, world football’s governing body, insists stadiums have smart surroundings. One rule states that no cranes or building sites should be visible around stadium skylines during the World Cup.
The clean-up is also expected to target street hawkers, unofficial security guards and thousands of immigrant traders from Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Somalia.
In Cape Town the move to rehouse the poor has been met with fury by members of a newly established group called Stop Concentration Camps for Homeless People, whose supporters compare the move to the apartheid era, when black people were cleared from “whites only” districts.
Linzi Thomas, from MyLife, a Cape Town charity for street children, said the policy would damage children’s prospects. “Proposals to move them out of sight and out of mind are not only absurd and counter-productive but a gross violation of basic human rights,” she said. “What happens to these people beyond 2010?”Violet Modise from Johannesburg’s displaced persons unit defended the plans. She claimed they were aimed at restoring “the dignity of the homeless”.
Mzonke Poni, leader of Abahlali base Mjondolo in the Western Cape, and accused on a charge of ‘public violence’ had his case discharged in court on Tuesday 29 September for ‘lack of reliable evidence’. Mzonke conducted his own defence and he did so brilliantly. He led the three witnesses, one from the Metro Police and two from Cape Town’s anti-land-invasion unit, into contradicting themselves and each other.
In reality Mzonke was scapegoated for his political leadership of Abahlali baseMjondolo. The organization supported an occupation of municipal land in Macassar, outlying suburb of Cape Town, in May by backyard dwellers. The city’s anti-land-invasion unit spearheaded the illegal destruction of dwellings that had been erected on the land – illegal because once dwellings are occupied, under the PIE act they cannot be demolished without an order of court. An interdict was obtained in court declaring the illegality, but was overtaken by an interdict procured by the city prohibiting erection of structures on the land. In these ways the poor are denied justice by those with the resources.
However this case resulted in a bit of a comeback for the masses. Under Poni’s questioning, the three law enforcement witnesses could not even agree what he had done to warrant a charge of “public violence’. The first said that Poni was a leader (“voorbok”) but could not really say why. The second claimed that he had been policing the demonstration which was “rustig” (quiet) and then Poni arrived and spoke to the people and then there was “chaos” – stones thrown, fires lit, tyres burnt, etc. The third claimed that he had seen Poni lighting a fire (and though it was elicited that he was a few steps away could not recall whether it was lit with petrol or paraffin). In reality, neither of these witnesses (nor any police) had been there when the fires were lit, and only arrived later on to put them out and clear the road of tyres and stones!
Mzonke stated that he had merely observed the demonstration and had taken photos of it, including when law enforcement arrived late to try to clear the road. The first witness admitted that he had approached Mzonke twice while he was taking photos, to tell him to stop. He however denied Mzonke’s claim that he had said to him “Motherfucker, we are going to motherfucking arrest you.” He said that with women and children present he would never have used such language. Mzonke said he had responded to the officer by saying “then arrest me”. The magistrate asked the officer why, if he had told Mzonke to stop taking photos, he had not confiscated his cellphone camera, or arrested him then. The witness could not reply to this.
The police witnesses were equally unclear about the circumstances of Mzonke’s arrest. In reality Mzonke was arrested after he left the area of the demonstration in order to go home. He was standing next to a road at least 500 metres from the demonstration talking to two people when police cars arrived. The other two fled, but Mzonke stood his ground. “Arrest me if you like” he claimed that he said. He stated that the police then fired pepper gas at him, dragged him into a law enforcement private car, and drove him around Macassar, beating and abusing him, before transferring him into a regular police car and taking him to the police station.
The officer who arrested him admitted that this had taken place away from the scene of the disturbance. He claimed, as did the second witness, that “minimum force” had been used. But neither of these witnesses, when asked by Mzonke, was very clear on what actual force had been used in this case.
The third witness claimed initially that Mzonke had been arrested on the scene of the disturbance surrounded by people who were singing freedom songs (while Mzonke was not singing). He could not respond adequately when Mzonke asked him why the people singing had not been arrested with him. Later Mzonke asked him whether he had seen him (Mzonke) running away when there was the attempt to arrest him. “Yes” the witness replied. “Did you chase me?” asked Mzonke. “Yes” replied the witness. “But earlier you said I was standing with people singing when you arrested me” Mzonke said. “Yes, we chased you round the block and you ended up back in the demonstration” was the implausible reply.
The magistrate had closely questioned the first witness on elements of his testimony to try to get a clear picture of events and resolve the contradictions in his evidence. She was particularly concerned as to why, if Poni had been so much an instigator, they had waited so long to arrest him. By the time the third witness was on the stand, however, the magistrate and even the prosecutor were dissolving into fits of laughter at the evidence! The comedy was better than the Keystone Cops. Dryly, the magistrate told the third witness before dismissing him “What you just said contradicts the testimony of the previous witness.”
Without any pause, she immediately declared that due to lack of reliable evidence, Mzonke was discharged and was free to go. Mzonke and I celebrated outside the courtroom with high fives. It was a small victory in the fight for justice and homes for all.
Professor Martin Legassick
Eye on Civil Society: SA's socio-economic war will spill into 2010
Durban Mercury, October 15, 2009 Edition 1
ECONOMIC dislocation is a big part of the anger that ordinary people feel about pathetic state service delivery.
And although South Africa has one of the world's highest rates of protest, per person, nothing is being done to change matters.
So 2010 could be an explosive year, if uprisings in the past few days
are any indication - such as at Nelspruit's new stadium on Monday, where
children tried to stop construction because they still lacked a decent
Some protests eventually lead to profound socio-economic change, most
notably the Treatment Action Campaign's 1998-2003 street pressure and
legal strategy aimed at acquiring antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive
Subsequently, angry about water disconnections, Soweto activists'
protests helped drive the controversial privatiser, Suez, out of
Johannesburg. Last week's lamentable Constitutional Court ruling against
the Sowetans' water rights will probably compel them to return to
Whether durable, democratic and campaign-oriented, or just momentarily
explosive in character, civil society discontent was also a contributing
factor in the 2007-08 transfer of power within the ANC.
Can community and labour activists reverse South Africa's long economic
decline? Here are some crucial markers:
# The post-apartheid rise in income inequality, slightly tempered after
2001 by increased welfare payments, but so bad that the main measure
(the Gini coefficient) soared from below 0.6 in 1994 to 0.72 by 2006.
# The official unemployment rate doubled (the realistic rate is about 40
percent) as a result of imported East Asian goods in relatively
labour-intensive sectors (clothing, textiles, footwear, appliances and
electronics) and capital-intensive production techniques elsewhere
(especially mining and metals).
# The provision of housing to several million people was marred by the
units being far smaller than apartheid "matchboxes", and located further
away from jobs and community amenities.
# While tokenistic amounts of free water and electricity are now
provided, the overall price rose dramatically, leading to millions of
disconnections each year when they could not afford the second block of
water consumption (Durban is second-worst after Pietermaritzburg,
according the Centre for Applied Legal Studies).
# With respect to macro-economic stability, the value of the rand in
fact crashed (against a basket of trading currencies) by more than a
quarter in 1996, 1998, 2001, 2006 and 2008, the worst record of any
# The problem of "capital strike" - large-scale firms' failure to invest
- continues, as gross fixed-capital formation is hardly enough to cover
wear-and-tear on equipment.
# Where corporate profits were reinvested, they sought returns from
speculative real estate and the Johannesburg Stock Exchange: there was a
50 percent increase in share prices during the first half of the 2000s,
and the property boom that began in 1999 had by 2008 sent house prices
up by 400 percent (US markets rose only by 60 percent over the same period).
# Businesses also invested their South African profits, but not mainly
in South Africa. Dating from the time of political and economic
liberalisation, most of the largest local corporations - Anglo American,
DeBeers, Old Mutual, SA Breweries, Investec, Liberty Life, Gencor (now
the core of BHP Billiton), Didata, Mondi and others - shifted their
funding flows and primary share listings to overseas markets.
# The outflow of profits and dividends due these firms is the main
reason that since 2001, South Africa's "current account deficit" soared
to among the highest in the world.
# Ecological problems have become far worse, according to the
government's own commissioned research in the 2006 Environmental Outlook
report, which, according to the leading state official, "outlined a
general decline in the state of the environment".
Some did well by these disasters. By 2001, the rate of profit for large
South African capital was ninth-highest among the world's major national
economies (far ahead of the US and China), according to one British
Countervailing claims of a "developmental state" under construction
hinge upon a series of vast white elephants:
# The Coega "ghost on the coast" industrial complex aimed at attracting
a persistently elusive aluminium smelter.
# The Lesotho Highlands Water Project mega-dams, which permit excessive
water consumption in Johannesburg while raising prices for township
# Several new or reconstructed stadiums for the 2010 soccer World Cup
(notably Durban's unnecessary Moses Mabhida Stadium).
# The R60 billion arms deal.
# Pebble-bed nuclear reactors potentially costing tens of billions of
dollars, alongside tens of billions more on coal-fired power plants,
notwithstanding South Africa's world-leading CO2 emissions rate.
# A R25bn fast-rail network allowing wealthy travellers easy albeit
expensive access between Johannesburg, Pretoria and the OR Tambo airport.
To finance state infrastructure spending and steady tax cuts for
corporations (down from a rate of nearly 50 percent in 1994 to less than
30 percent today), the Finance Ministry engineered a growth process that
looked impressive at surface level.
But South Africa's current account deficit is so great (reaching a peak
of -9 percent of GDP in June, 2008, although declining in 2009 as profit
outflows slowed and a small trade surplus emerged) that The Economist
this year rated the country as the world's riskiest emerging market.
None of these economic processes are tenable. Extremely high price
inflation in electricity (due to rise by 200 percent in coming years),
petrol and food will fuel yet more social unrest.
The question is whether the state will ignore the protest - as Tito
Mboweni tried in May at the Reserve Bank, when several thousand
metalworkers demanded he receive their memorandum calling for lower
interest rates - or repress it, or make concessions.
If concessions are made, will that lead to capital flight and a bigger
crisis? And will the National Union of Metalworkers' calls for deeper
reforms such as exchange controls be heeded?
But if Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan's Keynesian fiscal stimulus - a
substantial budget deficit - can't restore growth, will angry protesters
compel the Zuma government to adopt a new post-capitalist economic
policy? Only very big changes can divert the society from even bigger
confrontations in coming months.
# Patrick Bond directs the UKZN Centre for Civil Society.
Marchers blockade 2010 stadium
October 15, 2009 -- BBC -- More than 30 South Africans have been arrested after a violent protest near a 2010 World Cup stadium in Mpumalanga Province, police say.
The protesters are demanding that the government honour its promise to build a new school if they made way for the construction of the Mbombela stadium.
Police told the BBC that the situation was "tense but under control".
A BBC correspondent says there are fears that the recent spate of violent protests could disrupt the World Cup.
Many residents of South Africa's townships are angry at what they see as the slow pace at which the government is providing basic services such as housing, water and electricity.
The BBC's Mpho Lakaje says the situation in Sakhile township in Mpumalanga resembles a state of emergency, with burning tyres in the roads, schools closed and local government buildings destroyed.
The government has sent two ministers to the area to try to calm tensions.
There have also been similar protests near the capital, Pretoria.
About 100 protesters gathered near the Mbombela stadium in the provincial capital Nelspruit.
The demonstrators from Mathafeni village said the schools in the area are in a bad condition and accused the government of reneging on its promise to build a new school if they agreed to move.
The unrest started on Monday with students taking to the streets and blockading the entrance to the stadium, forcing workers to down tools, reports say.
The stadium is almost finished
Later in the week the demonstration become violent leading to three police officers being injured, two of them seriously.
Police say the protests were initially staged by students but later escalated into a community affair.
"They become unruly and started throwing stones at police who used rubber bullets to disperse them," Mpumalanga police spokesperson Superintendent Malcolm Makomene told the BBC.
One civilian was injured during the demonstrations while trying to dodge rubber bullets, police said.
Police said although the demonstrators protested in the vicinity of the stadium, there were no attempts to enter the ground.
"There have been no attempts to go into the stadium or destroy the property around it but police are monitoring the situation," the police spokesperson said.
Work has now resumed at the 30,000 capacity Mbombela Stadium, which is to host four first-round matches.
When President Jacob Zuma was inaugurated in May he promised to speed up delivery of services and improve the lives of the poor but the country's first recession in 17 years has reduced his scope for action.
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
28 October 2009
The Kennedy Road 13 returned to the Durban Magistrate's Court on Monday 26 October to hear the verdict on their application for bail. The Kennedy 13 were not given bail and remain in Westville Prison. The magistrate will take a final decision on their application for bail on Monday next week.
Once again the ANC mob had been bussed in and there was a further escalation of threats against us. New people were targeted and threatened with death. Even at the Durban Magistrate's Court, in full public view, we are not safe and our basic democratic rights to speak and associate freely are being denied.
The threats of death and harm from the mouths and at the hands of self-proclaimed ANC members and officials, which started at the Kennedy Road settlement, has followed us into the Court. The violence and intimidation, which started at Kennedy Road, is not over. It is far from over. It continues. Our movement is still under attack, and our members - in Kennedy Road, and now also in other settlements, continue to be scattered by threats of violence. Even as we declare to ourselves and the world that we will not be silenced by the ANC we continue to live in fear that free speech, free movement and free association could get us killed.
The Secretary of our Youth League has now been forced into hiding after receiving public death threats. Armed young thugs followed her from the Court, to the street, to the taxis, to her home (which is not in the Kennedy Road settlement). This is in spite of the fact that the world is watching the ongoing attack on our movement. In spite of the world watching - in spite of protests at South African embassies, on university campuses, in spite of statements by respected church leaders, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Housing, and various human rights organisations, many of us cannot return to our homes, many of us remain in hiding and we must still must hold our meetings in secret. In spite of the the world watching, we cannot go to the court without facing young men threatening us with words or weapons. They bring knobkerries and bushknives to court, and openly boast that they are armed and will kill.
In spite of all this, we hear the ANC at top levels talking about militarizing the police, the same police who have already so often used their weapons against us. In spite of all of this, we hear the ANC at top levels talking about silencing "enemies of the ANC." We know exactly what they mean as their self-proclaimed members have already tried to silence us. In spite of all this, the ANC at top levels have not condemned the violence and intimidation against our movement. There has not been one statement from the ANC about the fact that we were attacked that night, not one statement about the fact that our leaders have had their homes destroyed and been chased from their community, not one statement about the fact that freely elected community structures have been declared illegitimate because they are not ANC structures, not one statement about the fact that our movement has been banned from Kennedy Road, not one statement about the fact that our leaders, including those outside of Kennedy Road, continue to be targeted. We have not seen one statement from the ANC condemning Willies Mchunu for claiming to have 'liberated' Kennedy Road.
We are again calling on the honest and democratic members of the ANC not to be silenced, but to oppose those who corrupt their movement with lies, intimidation and oppression. Honest and democratic members of the ANC are the defenders of their movement, not its enemies. If the honest and democratic members of the ANC do not prevail at this time the organisation will become an enemy of our democracy. We are asking the honest and democratic members of the ANC to support our right to organise independently. We are asking them to defend democracy. We are asking them to defend us.
Yesterday at Court, the ANC again sent two hired buses with people to intimidate us. Most of the self-proclaimed ANC members on the buses were not from Kennedy Road.
Inside the Court yesterday, there was pushing, shouting and shoving - once again, Abahlali members were physically prevented from entering the courtroom.
Inside the Court yesterday, when the judge came in, those from the ANC buses held up signs on big flowchart paper with different colour slogans such as "Asikufuni Zikode Nababulali" (We don't want [Abahlali President S'bu] Zikode and the killers).
Outside the Court, those from the ANC buses were toyi-toying outside a gate. When our members stood together quietly, far from the gate, to be briefed about the result of the bail hearing, a group from the ANC buses, mostly young men, moved toward us, shouting and threatening us. They came very close. We just stood quietly.
A Reverend from the Diakonia Council of Churches tried to calmly step between us and the young men. He asked them to please be calm and stand back. Some of the young men began shouting at him in English and isiZulu: "You are just an umlungu!", "You are supporting the killers!" and "We can kill you!"
A woman, who identified herself to the Reverend as a local councilor, was leading the young men. She was dressed in ANC garb head-to-toe. She shouted at the Reverend, and told him it was not a matter of the ANC, but a matter of the community. But she is not Yacoob Baig, the local ANC councilor of Ward 25, where the community of Kennedy Road is located.
If this is 'just a matter for the community' what is an ANC councilor from another ward doing with bussed-in ANC members from outside of Kennedy Road and issuing death threats to respected church leaders at Court? What are Jackson Gumede, Yacoob Baig and other ANC officials doing at Court, watching, as men - visibly armed and wearing ANC t-shirts - openly threaten us, calling for the death of the Secretary of our Youth Leauge, our Women's League Chairperson, and our other leaders? Why are AbM leaders from outside of Kennedy Road being threatened? Why is S'bu Zikode being targeted when he was not even in Durban on the night of the attack on our movement? It is completely obvious that the ANC is waging a political attack on our movement.
Mr. Mchunu we need an urgent and genuinely independent and credible investigation into this attack. Our demand is for openness and fairness. How can you deny this demand? If you continue to deny this demand how can you expect people to not conclude that you have something to hide? It is obvious that the ANC cannot investigate themselves. There has to be a genuinely independent and credible investigation into this attack. Mr. Mchunu, if you want to be the Minister for the Safety and Security of all people and not the Minister in charge of attacking the people who have embarrassed the ANC then we need you to start calling for an independent and credible investigation into this attack as soon as possible.
For further information please contact:
Reverend Mavuso: 072 279 2634
Shamita Naidoo: 074 315 7962
Mama Nxumalo: 076 333 9386
Notes on the Police Attack on the Pemary Ridge Settlement
14 November 2009
The Sydenham police arrived at Pemary Ridge at around 8pm on Friday night in one private car.Three police officers first went to a woman's tuck shop. They found that the shop was closed, and proceeded to kick down the front door. The woman, hearing the police and fearing they would damage her shop, entered through the back door. When she entered, they arrested her for having bottles of beer in her shop.
In the hours that followed, the police tore through the settlement, kicking down doors, issuing beatings with fists, batons, and even household items. The police shot, at random, with live ammunition, within close range of people and their homes. They assaulted both women and men.
Before the shooting began, one man, who was walking by the tuck shop of the arrested woman, was beaten by police, without explanation. Another man, who was walking home from work, unaware of what was happening in the settlement, was beaten on the street. He was told by police officers that "it was to teach you people a lesson," and so that when he returned home injured from work, "that lesson would be brought back to the community."
Other people were beaten by police inside their homes. One man from the Arnett Drive settlement was visiting friends, sitting inside and talking, after work. The police kicked down the door, shouting that they were "looking for ganja." He, the two other men and two women inside, said they did not have any ganja. The police said, "don't make us look stupid" and that they "smelled ganja." The man said whatever the police thought they were smelling was not ganja; he drinks alcohol, but does not smoke ganja. A police officer then hit him, repeatedly, for "talking back," and for "trying to make them look stupid." The officers then began beating all 5 people inside the home, including the two women. Blood covered the floor of the home, and the door remains off its hinges.
The police were not finished. Shortly thereafter, once another police van had arrived, the officers returned to the home, and pulled the man that they had already assaulted outside. They dragged him to the street that runs along the top of the settlement, and then beat him bloody again with batons and fists all over his body - injuring especially, his back and knees. The police said that they were "teaching him a lesson." With difficulty, the man managed to escape, and ran to the bush to hide.
Some people gathered outside to see what was happening: while standing and talking, both women and men were beaten by police. An estimated two men and three women were arrested. Other police officers began shooting, with live ammunition, at random, in close range of people and their homes. People ran, and hid in the bush.
Many women in the settlement then began to form a barricade in the street at the top of the settlement. At first, the women put stones and a log in the street, and then they put tires and set the barricade alight. Later, the police forced some of the people they arrested to remove the smouldering remnants of the barricade with their bare hands.
Again, the police returned to settlement, with an estimated additional 14 or 15 officers. The police, again, shot live ammunition at random, while most people hid in the bush.
11 women and men were arrested. It is difficult to estimate how many people have been injured at this stage. However, the 11 people arrested apparently were assaulted, their friends and families members, who witnessed the beatings, say. Another 6 people, among those who remained at the settlement overnight, had visible injuries, swollen wounds and bleeding. There have been no reported bullet wounds, despite that police, on two separate occasions, fired live ammunition inside the settlement.
Philani Zungu is the former Vice President of Abahlali andthe current chairperson of Abahlali baseMjondolo in Pemary Ridge. Philani's home was shot through with at least one bullet. The police were using live ammunition that night, as the community confirmed when they found the bullet casings the following day. At the time, people were fearful that this was a shoot-to-kill scenario. Many fled the settlement when the first round of shooting began. Some hid in the bush down near the river while the police fired. After the second round of police shooting, some people left the settlement entirely for the night, as they feared the police would return. Residents went to the Arnett Drive settlement (also affiliated to Abahlali baseMjondolo) for the night, or to friend and family homes elsewhere.
At 11:30pm, residents themselves called an ambulance. The ambulance arrived at around 12:30am. The ambulance took one man to the hospital, with head injuries from police beatings. The others, who were also injured and bleeding, were not taken to hospital, as the ambulance attendants said their injuries were not serious enough.
Several Abahlali members from Pemary Ridge went to the Sydenham police station around 2:30am to inquire about those who had been arrested. A police officer told them that 11 people were arrested. He said they could not see the arrested, and that visiting hours were at 12pm on Saturday. He said that the arrested had not been charged yet, but that they would appear in the Pinetown Magistrate's Court on Monday. When asked if those arrested had received medical attention, he denied that they were injured. He said that the 11 arrested were not injured, and so have not received any medical attention.
The local Abahlali baseMjondolo branch organised a small press conference in the settlement this morning. About 60 residents attended the press conference. Later on an Abahlali baseMjondolo delegation went to the Sydenham Police station to demand a meeting with the police. The officers on duty used the excuse that they could not speak for those on duty last night. However a few members of the delegation were allowed to visit the prisoners. The prisoners said that four of them are seriously injured and that their requests for medical attention had been refused. Medical attention for the four was requested by the visitors but the police told them that 'we know when to call a doctor and when not to. Who the hell are you to tell us how to do our job?' The detainees have still not been charged. It was confirmed that they are scheduled to appear in the Pinetown Magistrate's court on Monday.
This is the third time, since the attacks in Kennedy Road, that the Sydenham police have brutally harassed and arrested residents of Pemary Ridge. The last two times, the police said it was for the self-connection of electricity. Everyone knows that the the police attacks on Pemary Ridge are part of the wider ongoing attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo.
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Emergency Press Update from Abahlali basePemary Ridge
14 November 2009
Police Attack on Pemary Ridge - 11 arrested, at least 15 injured
The attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo continues.
The first van from the Sydenham Police Station arrived at the Pemary Ridge settlement at 8:00 p.m last night. The police officers went to a woman's tuck shop and kicked down the door saying that they were looking for alcohol. At the time, a man was walking by, and the police assaulted him – they struck him, and swore at him. His sister, who saw the attack, screamed in terror. When members of the community gathered around to see what was happening, the police opened fire, and started shooting people at random. Some residents ran to the river to hide fearing a shoot to kill operation. Others assembled at the top of the road, and began burning tires in protest. More police arrived and they attacked the people protesting on the road opening fire several times. They then went from shack to shack kicking down the doors of residents' homes and assaulting people in their homes. People were beaten bloody with fists and batons. Some were also pistol whipped. The police fired several rounds into Philani Zungu's shack.
At least 15 people have been badly injured but we can't give the final figure yet as many people scattered into the bush down by the river and some are too scared to return to the settlement.
11 people were arrested and are being held without charge in the notorious Sydenham Police station where many Abahlali baseMjondolo members, and other poor African people, have been badly assaulted, and at times even tortured, over the years. Most recently the Kennedy Thirteen were severely assaulted in the Sydenham Police Station. Many of the people who have been arrested were visibly injured when they were arrested and community members saw them being beaten further as they were arrested and put in the vans. But the police are denying that they are injured and have denied them medical attention.
The Pemary Ridge Eleven will appear in the Pinetown's Magistrate's court on Monday. It is not yet clear what they will be charged with. Visiting hours at the Sydenham Police station today start at 12:00.
This is the third attack on the Pemary Ridge settlement by the Sydenham Police since the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in Kennedy Road. The last two times they came and arrested people for connecting themselves to electricity. This was an attack on the whole community. Before they left the police said "This is a lesson - tell the others."
The total number of people arrested since the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo began on 26 September 2009 is now 32. There is no democracy for the poor in Durban. In this city if you are a poor person the police are dangerous criminals and you must fear them.
A full and detailed statement will be issued soon.
eThekwini kukhala abangcwele.
S'bu 076 7438427
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Pemary Ridge Under Police Attack Now; Shooting Continues
Abahlalibase Pemary Ridge
At 8pm this evening, a Sydenham police car arrived at the Pemary Ridge settlement in Reservoir Hills. The armed officers went to a home, and kicked down the door. At the time, a man was walking by, and the police assaulted him – they struck him, and swore at him. His sister who saw the attack screamed in terror. When members of the community gathered around to see what was happening, the police opened fire, and started shooting people at random. Some residents ran to the river to hide. They reassembled at the top of the road, and began burning tires. More police arrived and opened fire several times. The police are continuing to shoot at random now. They are kicking down the doors of residents' homes. All press are urged to rush to the scene.
The whole of this, and last month, is just reports of the police shooting. 2010 has arrived, and by by the time the tournament comes, the stadium will be full bullets.
Sbu 076 7438427
For more, please visit the website of the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign at:
The Poor People's Alliance: Abahlali baseMjondolo, together with with Landless People's Movement (Gauteng), the Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal) and the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, is part of the Poor People's Alliance - a unfunded national network of democratic membership based poor people's movements.