Landless People’s Movement Press Release Monday 2 March, 2009
On Sunday morning, Maureen Mnisi and others from Landless People’s Movement (LPM) gave a petition from the Protea South community to their ward councillor, regarding various issues on which the voters would like to have a report-back. While the community members were signing the attendance register at the community hall, Maureen returned to her home. After 1pm, the councillor phoned her, claiming that the community was busy burning down the transit camp. Maureen went straight there. When she arrived, there were lots of police at the transit camp (nothing was burning), and people from the community were gathered on the other side of the road. Maureen asked people to go home. As she and others walked back, a hippo car started to shoot rubber bullets. Before she could reach her home, the police stopped their car and said they wanted to speak to her at the police station. She said she had nothing to tell them, as she was not involved in any dispute. They simply said she’s arrested and took her and others to the police station.
The arrested people are Maureen Mnisi, Maas van Wyk, Ivy Senona, Elsie Mkhuma, Shiella Mosenodi, Gasa Radebe, Micheal Dlamini, Chester Maluleke. The charge, as always, is public violence. They are still in custody. They have not yet appeared in court.
In South Africa the police always arrest movement activists on this charge – mostly after they have just been attacked and beaten by the police. Hundreds of our comrades have been arrested on this charge over the years but we don’t know of a single case were a person who has been arrested on a public violence charge has been brought to trial. They just use this charge as an excuse to arrest us, sometimes to assault and torture us while we are kept in their stations, to make us waste all the movements’ money on bail, to then keep delaying the case all the time forcing us to pay lawyers and to miss work and come to court until the judges throw the cases out because the police bring no evidence to court.
Elections are always a dangerous time for poor people’s movements in South Africa. Our marches are banned, we are beaten, arrested, sometimes tortured and sometimes even murdered.
Anti-Eviction Campaign Activists have already been beaten and arrested for taking a ‘No land! No House! No Vote! position for the coming election. (See: http://www.abahlali.org/node/4780)
LPM activists were tortured during the 2004 national government elections when the took a ‘No Land! No Vote’ position. (See the Amnesty International 2005 report on South Africa at http://www.amnestyusa.org/annualreport.php?id=ar&yr=2005&c=ZAF)
Abahlali baseMjondolo activists had their marches banned and were beaten and arrested inthe 2006 local government elections for taking a ‘No Land! No House! No Vote! position.
In the same local government elections some people in E-Section, Umlazi, decided to run an independent candidate. Three people were murdered. (See http://www.abahlali.org/node/89)
The newspapers and the NGOs usually say that we must celebrated our ‘peaceful’ and ‘free and fair’ elections. They might have been peaceful and free and fair for them. If we refuse to vote or try to vote for an independent candidate we face assault, arrest and sometimes even torture and murder at the hands of the police. There is no democracy for the poor in this country.
LPM activist Thomas Maemganyi escaped arrest and can be contacted on: 072 613 2738