[DEBATE] : Democracy in Tatters in Durban
Pithouser at ukzn.ac.za
Wed Sep 13 00:52:07 BST 2006
** High Priority **
12 September 2007 11:50 PM
SYDENHAM POLICE LAUNCH SAVAGE ATTACK ON DEMOCRACY
On Monday 4 September the shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo
used the Promotion of Access to Information Act to demand that City
Manager Sutcliffe tell them, in concrete detail, what the city's plans
are for them. The next day Mxolisi Nkosi, the HOD in the Dept of
Housing, called Abahlali in to berate them and demand that they cease
speaking to the media. Abahlali asserted their refusal to be silenced
all over the media spectacular out arguing Departmental Spokesperson
Lennox Mabaso in two major radio debates. The next day S'bu Zikode,
president of Abahlali, got a visit from the NIA. Nonhlanhla Mzobe, a key
Abahlali activist, found that her boss at Durban Solid Waste had
received a letter from the local councillor, Yakoob Baig and the head of
the BEC of the ANC, generally known as Nicodemus, demanding that
Nonhlanhla be fired for supporting the 'red shirts'.Yesterday Abahlali,
together with community organisations from the Municipal flats in
Wentworth and Chatsworth, protested outside the ICC wearing t-shirts
demanding that the state "Talk to Us, Not For Us." Again this put them
all over the newspapers and radio.
Tonight Abahlali were invited to be on P4 radio from 18:00 to 19:00.
They had recently raised some money via a 16 team football tournament to
help with the transport between the Abahlali settlements across Durban,
Pinetown and now 'Maritzburg. Some of this money was used to hire a
small car, a Tazz, to help with all the getting round for radio
interviews, meetings and so on in the hours after taxis have stopped
running. At around 17:40 S'bu Zikode (President), Philani Zungu (Deputy
President) and Mnikelo Ndabanakulu (PRO) got into the car to leave for
the radio interview. While the car was still stationary, officers from
the Sydenham police station, notorious for its corruption, brutality and
anti-African racism, pounced. They thrust guns into the faces of the
Bahlali and accused them, in a highly racialised manner, of driving a
stolen vehicle. The cops ordered the three men out of the car. When they
saw that Mnikelo was wearing a red Abahlali T-shirt they pulled it off
him, insulted him, pushed him around, threw the shirt into the mud, made
a great show of standing and spitting on it and announced that 'there
will be no more red shirts in Sydenham'. Mnikelo's red shirt was
designed, sewn and printed in the settlements. But politicians go on th
radio with wild conspiracy theories about 'who is funding/inciting the
S'bu Zikode politely but firmly told them that they had no right to act
like this and suggested that this was racist political intolerance. He
was assaulted and told that ''Now you'll see a different story in
tomorrow's papers!' Philani was also assaulted as the two were bundled
into the van. The police picked up Mnikelo's red shirt and said they
were taking it to use as a mop. By the time Philani arrived at the
police station he was bleeding from a head wound.
Mnikelo, S'bu's wife Sindi, Philani's mother Ma Zungu and a handful of
others soon got to the nearby police station. They were denied entrance,
sworn at and racially abused in English and Fanakalo. Numerous police
men stated that S'bu Zikode and the red shirts would be driven out of
Sydenham. Someone sent an SMS to P4 radio explaining that their guests
were under arrest. This was announced on air. Bahlali started arriving
from all over Durban and Pinetown. There was soon a crowd of around 40.
People waited on the side of the road. There was no toyi-toying and no
threatening behaviour of any sort. Niren Tolsi from the Mail & Guardian
arrived on the scene.
Access to the prisoners and medical attention for Philani was asked
for, but denied. The police refused to say what the charge was.
In Kennedy Road there was a mass meeting on the hall. More than 500
people squeezed in and more waited outside. An SMS was sent to people at
the police station to see if bail was possible. The police said that
there would be no bail. When this was conveyed to the meeting a group of
women in the front decided to march to the police station.
Within minutes of people getting onto the road the police arrived. They
gave no warnings to disperse and began shooting with rubber bullets and
live ammunition. They even used live ammunition in the hall. Anyone on
the road or even moving between the shacks was shot at. At least one
person, a women in her 50s known as Zinovia was shot in both legs. She
managed to make it to the Kennedy Road office under the hall where she
got some care. Niren Tolsi moved down to the settlement where he
witnessed what happened next.
Back at the police station there was a glimpse of S'bu and Philani
lying face down on the floor handcuffed and bound at the feet. Mnikelo's
red shirt was lying on the floor next to them. A few people started
gaining access to the charge office. A whiteboard with the heading of
'Suspicious Behaviour' listed '3 Black Men Driving a Tazz' at the top.
It was announced that S'bu and Philani were to be charged with arresting
a police officer. This is a ludicrous charge. Numerous people had
witnessed the unprovoked and highly racialised police assault in the
Kennedy Road settlement.
Word was received that the police were continuing to shoot at the
settlement and that there had been some attempt at a fight back with
stones and bricks. Zikode got access to his cell phone and sent out two
messages "Please look after Sindi!" (Sindi is his wife) and "Nayager has
satisfied himself with us. Too tough with Philani." (Nayagar is the
notorious station commander with a record of racist violence towards
Abahlali.) Zikode was assured that Sindi was ok and asked if he wanted
people to protest outside the police station, as they were determined to
do, or to make a tactical retreat in the hope of calming the police
down. He replied "Up to them! I am fighting for them. Not for myself."
Suddenly a group of white men in camouflage print uniforms with
camouflage webbing hanging down from their shoulders arrived all pumped
up with adrenalin and a will to violence. They began threatening the
people outside the police station with their guns. They jabbed people
with the guns and threatened to shoot. They declared that the collection
of about 40 people was an illegal gathering and began herding people off
with their guns. There were machines guns and shotguns everywhere. But
it was negotiated that S'bu's wife, Sindi, and Philani's mother, Ma
Zungu could stay. The others were moved off with guns being used like
cattle prods. One of the policemen shouted, in Fanakalo, 'Hamba inja!
Hamba!' Rafiq, the notoriously racist and violent local police reservist
told anyone who'd listen that 'The Red shirts must be driven out. These
people must go back where they came from'.
Eventually medical attention was secured for Philani. Sindy and Ma
Zungu were able to briefly enter the cells. They were then forced to
leave the station. While they were in the charge office Station
Commander Glen Nayager was on the telephone to journalists telling them
the S'bu and Philani had assaulted a police officer and that people in
Kennedy Road had opened fire on the police. These were blatant lies.
Last time the Sydenham Police attacked Abahali after Sutcliffe illegally
banned a march from the Foreman Road settlement on 14 November 2005 they
claimed that Abahlali had started the attack by stoning a car. But the
events are recorded on film and the car in question, which belongs to
academic Richard Ballard, never had a scratch. It is an incontrovertible
fact that the police attacked without warning on that day and then lied
about it. Anyone who doubts this can see the film or speak to Dr.
Ballard. It seems that they are going to do the same now.
Sindi and Ma Zungu were forced out of the charge office but promised
that S'bu and Philani would not be moved. Kennedy Road was still
occupied by the police. But around Sydenham small groups of Bahlali were
meeting in settlements or in safe places like BP Quickshop in Clare Road
where Des D'sa (from Wentworth) and Orlean and Pinky Naidoo (from
Chatsworth) arrived to offer solidarity to Mnikelo, still shirtless, and
Bahlali looking for a late taxi to get back to Pinetown. A march of the
full force of Abahlali, 30 000 people from 34 settlements, on the
Sydenham Police Station was suggested. Word came in that S'bu and
Philani had in fact been moved - perhaps to CR Swart, perhaps to Cato
Manor - the new man at the desk couldn't really say but they were gone.
S'bu and Philani will appear in the Durban magistrate's Court tomorrow
where they will be welcomed as heroes as they walk up the stairs and
into the dock. Abahlali will be there, Wentworth will be there,
Chatsworth will be there, important church leaders will be there. The
case number is 116/09/2006/
Durban claims to be a world class city are only true if George Bush is
world class. This savage assault on democracy has left the city's
reputation in tatters. No stadium or airport can undo what was done
tonight. The story of tonight will be told in shacks around the country
and in newsrooms from Kampala to New York. There can be no more
illusions about the nature of the future that is being built. The poor
are expected to shut up as they are moved out of the city and away from
any hope for their future. If they try to speak through the spaces made
available in our constitutional democracy they will come under fire from
the police and end up bleeding on the floor of some police station. This
is the truth.
For further information and comment please contact
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, 0735656241 - Witness to the initial arrest
Cindy Zikode, S'bu's wife 0835470474
M'du Hlongwa, Abahlali General Secretary, 0723358966
Nonhlanhla Mzobe, Witness to the Kennedy Road police attack 0760884352
Zodwa Nsibande, Witness to the Kennedy Road police attack, 0834925442
Louisa Mota, Motala Heights Settlement, 0781760088
Fikile Nkosi, Pemary Ridge Settlement, 0842501446
Pictures taken outside the Sydenham Police station are online at
http://southafrica.indymedia.org/news/2006/09/11088.php Scroll down
to see them all.
Please note that this is not an official Abahlali press release.
Abahlali press releases are prepared after carefully discussion by
elected and carefully mandated committees. This has been written in
haste by one person.
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