The Police & Abahlali baseMjondolo
Senzeni na, sihlushwa nje?
A List of Key Incidents of Police Harassment Suffered by Abahlali baseMjondolo
– compiled by Stephanie Lynch and Zodwa Nsibande
Please note that this list of the main instances of police harassment suffered by Abahlali baseMjondolo does not include the day to day police harassment suffered by shack dwellers in general which is clearly most acute in the areas under the jurisdiction of the Sydenham Police station. Day to day harassment includes racial abuse, racialised stop and search practices, casual violence, ‘raids’ in which bribes are demanded on the pain of arrest, men are randomly forced to do press ups on the threat of assault and in which electronic goods without a purchase receipt are simply confiscated by the police on the grounds that they must be ‘stolen’. At times this generalised day to day abuse poses serious risk to the safety of shack dwellers. For instance an unarmed 17 year old boy visiting family at the Foreman Road settlement was shot in the knee on New Year’s Eve 2006 for urinating in public. However it should be noted that not all officers at the Sydenham Police station take part in this abusive behaviour and that some have sought to meet with Abahlali baseMjondolo to express their concerns. Indeed Abahlali has good relationships with certain officers, African and Indian, and settlement committees work with those officers against crime.
Please also note that this list of key incidents of police harassment does not include the consistent failure of all eThekwini Police stations – with the exception, on one occasion, of the Pinetown SAPS – to refuse to act against the City’s private security and Land Invasions Unit when they illegally (i.e. without court orders) and, in fact, criminally, demolish homes and evict people. Furthermore this list does not include the rampant intimidation, violence, abuse and corruption that is typically associated with evictions that are usually overseen by the notorious Land Invasions Unit.
Finally please also note that in areas outside of the jurisdiction of the Sydenham Police station there have been instances where the police have acted fairly towards shack dwellers and within the law. For instance in June 2006 officers in the Umlazi SAPS defied more senior officers to enter a Ward Councillor’s compound and make arrests after a political assassination. In December 2006 the SAPS in Pinetown threatened members of the City’s Land Invasion Unit Private Security with arrest while they were carrying out illegal evictions resulting in the halting of the eviction. In September 2007, also in Pinetown, the Metro Police rescued a journalist and an Abahlali member who had been kidnapped and subject to death threats by gangster landlord Ricky Govender. However while Abahlali welcomes each instance in which the police respond towards shack dwellers as if they are citizens deserving protection these instances of just police action should not be misunderstood to mean that the situation is acceptable in Pinetown. There have also been numerous instances there where the SAPS have refused to act against blatantly criminal actions by Ricky Govender and his associates including assault, dumping toxic waste on people’s door steps and threats of arson, bulldozing homes and contract killings etc.
1.18 March 2005: Attempted Meeting With Ward Councillor Broken Up with Police Violence
A small piece of land in Elf Road adjacent to the Kennedy Road settlement in Clare Estate was promised to Kennedy Road residents for housing by Ward Councillor Yakoob Baig in the 2000 local government elections. That promise was consistently repeated until 16 Februaray 2005 and is a matter of public record. On 18 March 2005 residents were shocked to see that a factory was being built on the land. They walked down to the site and asked the workers to cease construction until Baig came to the site to explain what was happening. Baig was duly phoned. He arrived with a large contingent of police officers from the Sydenham Station. He made no attempt to speak to the Kennedy Road residents but said to the police “These people are criminals. Arrest them.” In violation of the Gatherings Act, which does allow for spontaneous protest, no attempt was made to negotiate with residents. Also in violation of the Gatherings Act they were attacked by the police without a prior warning to disperse. People were racially abused, told that they ‘must go back where you come from’, threatened with having their shacks burnt, punched, beaten with batons, teargassed, shot at with rubber bullets and bitten by dogs. Many people suffered bruises, abrasions etc.
2. 19 March 2005: Protest Broken Up With Police Violence
On March 19 March 2005 Kennedy Road residents blockaded Umgeni Road without seeking the permission of the City for a protest. The Sydenham Police arrived with the Public Order Policing Unit. The Sunday Tribune reported that 750 protesters engaged in a 4 hour standoff with police officers in a protest to demand better housing. Protesters were beaten, bitten by dogs and tear gassed. Rubber bullets and stun grenades were also used. 14 people were arrested and charged with public violence. They were assaulted and subject to racist abuse in the Sydenham Police station. They were then moved to Westville prison where the 14, including 2 juveniles who by law should not have been detained in an adult prison, were held in Westville prison, together with the other 12, for 10 days before appearing before a magistrate and being able to apply for bail. All charges against the 14 were later dropped because the police failed to provide the prosecuter with any evidence that they had in fact been guilty of public violence.
3. 20 March 2005: Protest Broken Up With Police Violence
On 20 March 2005 around 2 000 Kennedy Road residents marched on the Sydenham Police station where the Kennedy Road 14, known in the community as the ’14 heroes’, where then being held and assaulted. The demand of the marchers was that the 14 heroes either be released or that everybody be arrested on the grounds that “if they are criminals then we are all criminals.” They were violently driven back by the Sydenham Police together with the Public Order Policing Unit under the command of Supt. Glen Nayager. A number of people were hurt. The police did attempt to arrest S’bu Zikode but he escaped. The settlement was then occupied by the Public Order Policing Unit in armoured vehicles in a military style operation.
4. 13 May and 14 September 2005: Intimidation in the lead up to Marches on Councillor Yakoob Baig
Newspaper reports estimated that around 3 000 – 4 000 people marched from the Kennedy Road and nearby settlements such as Foreman Road, Jadhu Place etc to demand the resignation of Councillor Yakoob Baig on 13 May 2005 and around 5 000 – 8 000 marched again with the same demand on 14 September 2005. This time permission had been sought for the protests from the City and there was no police violence during the marches. However there was severe police and intelligence intimidation in the lead up to both of the marches with the state going so far as to have the army occupy the Kennedy Road settlement the night before the first march and an heavy intimidatory police presence in the Kennedy Road settlement on the night before both of the marches. Individuals were also targeted for various forms of police intimidation.
5.15 November 2005: March on Mayor Mlaba Illegally Banned and Marchers Attached and Journalists and Academics Intimidated
Abahlali took a decision to boycott the March 2006 local government elections under the slogan ‘No Land! No House! No Vote!’. The boycott was to be announced via a march on Mayor Obed Mlaba organised from the Foreman Road settlement. Permission was duly sought for a march and all the requirements of the Gatherings Act were complied with in order to stage a legal march. Late in the afternoon on the day before the march a fax was received banning the march on superious grounds that ‘the mayor’s office labour will not be present to receive the memorandum’. This banning was entirely unlawful in terms of the Gatherings Act. Nevertheless around 3 000 people decided to march in defiance of the unlawful ban. As soon as they exited the settlement they were attacked by the Sydenham SAPS and the Public Order Policing Unit under the Command of Supt. Glen Nayager. There had been no violence or threats of violence or damage to property from protesters.
Police used batons, rubber bullets and stun grenades and at least two officers fired shots from pistols. Some people were shot with rubber bullets at point blank range while cowering on the ground. There is photographic evidence of one officer chasing fleeing protesters with a drawn pistol. A number of people were seriously injured and required hospitalisation. In at least two of those instances the injuries had permanent consequences. System Cele lost her front teeth. 45 people were arrested. Some protestors responded to the police attack by throwing stones. This defensive action succeeded in slowing down the police attack but the police then blocked all exits from the settlement and continued to shoot at any one attempting to leave the settlement, or passing by one of the exits, with rubber bullets and stun grenades for some hours
The initial moments of the police attack were captured on video and in photographs but the police quickly moved to confiscate all cameras. Cameras were confiscated, at times at gun point and always on the threat of arrest, from academics and journalists. One journalist was taken to the Sydenham Police station on the orders of Glen Nayager and unlawfully held without charge for a few hours. Another was threatened with violence by Nayager should he write about what he had seen. The Mercury laid a formal complain with the police. Attempts by Abahlali members to lay complaints with the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD) for assault, theft of cameras etc failed. The ICD would not open a complaint without a police case number. The police, at various stations around Durban, simply refused to open cases against police officers.
The police violence was widely covered by the local, national and international media (New York Times, The Economist, Al Jazeera etc).
From this day all requests by Abahlali to march were unlawfully refused by City Manager Mike Sutcliffe until 27 February when a court order was secured interdicting Sutcliffe and the Police from interfering with Abahlali’s right to march.
6. 10 November 2005: 19 Families Arrested After Protest at Ward Councillor’s Office
(The Lusaka settlement was not affiliated to Abahlali at the time of the eviction but the people left homeless joined Abahlali immediately after the eviction)
On 6 November 2005 the entire Lusaka Settlement in Reservoir Hills was illegally demolished by the eThekwini Municipality. Some families were forcibly removed to a relocation site outside of the city and 19 families were left homeless. Many of the people rendered homeless in the eviction decided to occupy the lawn outside Ward Councillor Jayraj Bachu’s office in protest. After 4 days they were arrested on the charge of trespass. The legal norm is that a first offence for trespass should result in release on a warning. However they were held in the Sydenham Police station for 3 days before Abahlali could create sufficient pressure for their release.
7. 12 February 2006: Police Prevent Abahlali From Taking Up an Invitation to Appear on SABC Talk Show
In the lead up to the 1 March 2006 local government elections Abahlali were invited in writing to bring 60 supporters and one delegate to appear on the SABC TV talk show Asikhulume. The show was scheduled to be filmed live in Cato Manor on 12 Feburary 2006 . Mayor Obed Mlaba was also invited to be a guest on the show. Abahlali arrived at the Cato Crest Hall on the appointed day in good time. SAPS officers were stationed at the doors. People wearing the black t-shirts of the ANC and the white t-shirts of the IFP and Nadeco were waved through. No one wearing the red shirts of Abahlali was allowed into the hall although there were many empty seats. When S’bu Zikode approached the police and politely showed them his written invitation and requested to be let in he was immediately assaulted by an Officer Ngcobo. At that point the Abahlali members began singing and dancing in a circle outside the hall. They were attacked and teargassed by the police. They show started and the Abahlali members managed to regroup and to begin banging on the glass doors at the back of the hall. At this point the production staff became concerned and S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were let in. Zikode was given the microphone from the floor. As he began to speak the power immediately cut out. The show was cancelled.
8. November 2005: Taking Down Fences
A fence was erected around the Elf Road land promised for housing for Kennedy Road residents. Around 2 000 Kennedy Road residents walked down at night and removed the fence poles from the ground and stacked them in neat piles on the property. Two days later Zoleka Mthombo was arrested on the charged of possesing stolen property on the grounds that a wooden fence pole was found near her shack. The charges against her were eventually dropped after numerous court appearances because the police could provide no evidence that she had stolen the fence pole.
9. Banned then Unbanned March – February 27, 2006
Abahlali followed all the steps necessary to stage a legal march on the Provincial M.E.C. for Housing, Mike Mabuyakulu, on 27 February 2006 (Two days before the local government elections). This was the first time that funding had been secured for an Abahlali march and was it was therefore the first time that the movement could mobilise across all its geographicaly dispered settlements and the first time that it could stage a march into the city. Once again the march was unlawfully banned by Sutcliffe.
Early on the morning scheduled for the march 3 key Abahlali activists and one non-Abahlali member were arrested (presumably the non-member was arrested in error). One was arrested while asleep in his bed, one while waiting at a bus stop and two in their homes. The charge was ‘violating the Gatherings Act’. Nayager was personally involved in all the arrests together with a notoriously racist police reservist known as Rafiq. During the arrests Rafiq shouted to shack dwellers that ‘they did not belong here’ and ‘must go home’. He also said, as the Sydenham police often do, that the police would ‘clear the red shirts out of this area’. All four were assaulted in the Sydenham Police station.
At the same time all the exits and entrances to all the large settlements were blockaded in a military style operation using armoured vehicles, helicopters and so on. However people from the smaller settlements were able to make their way into the City to wait for the march to begin. There were numerous assaults in the Kennedy Road, Foreman Road and Jadhu Place settlements as people tried to get through the militarised blockades in order to join the march. Rubber bullets and teargas were used. Abahlali estimates that around 20 000 had gathered to march in the various settlements around the city.
S’bu Zikode was able to escape the Kennedy Road blockade and Mnikelo Ndabankulu was able to escape through the Foreman Road blockade. They briefed an advocate and that afternoon an order of the court was secured that interdicted the police and the Sutcliffe from interfering with the right of Abahlali to continue with their march. Unfortunately by that stage it was late afternoon and the paid for transport was no longer available and only about 2 000 or 3 000 people were able to actually get into town and continue with the march.
All charges against the 4 people arrested early in the morning were later dropped due to the inability of the police to provide the prosecutor with any evidence.
10. 2 March 2006: Murder in Umlazi
(Abahlali doesn’t have a branch in E-Section Umlazi but worked closely with people there to arrange marches, secure legal support and communicate with the media etc.)
In E-section, Umlazi, a group of long-standing ANC and SACP activists were unhappy with their councillor, Bhekisasa Xulu, and decided to put up an independent candidate, Zamani Mthethwa, to oppose Xulu. Supporters of the Mthethwa campaign claimed that there was widespread intimidation in the lead up to the 1 March local government election including death threats, assaults and whippings. They also alleged that there had been blatant fraud during the election.
On the day after the election they staged a small protest against the alleged electoral fraud. The Public Order Policing Unit shot dead a young woman, Monica Ngcobo, near the protest and shot and seriously wounded S’busiso Mthethwa in his home. The police claimed that Ngcobo had been shot in the stomach with a rubber bullet while throwing stones. The media reported this uncritically although her family insisted that she had been shot in the back while on her to her job as a waitress on the waterfront. The autopsy later showed that she had been shot in the back with live ammunition.
An organisation called Women of Umlazi (which had some roots in the great women’s mobilisation in Cato Manor in the 1950s) was formed with help from Abahlali in response to the shootings. Woman of Umlazi organised a large march on 31 March in protest at these police shootings. Two former SACP activists who had worked closely with the Mthethwa campaign and the organisers of the march, Komi Zulu and Sinethembe Myeni, were later assassinated in separate carefully planned attacks. Others survived assassination attempts. Women of Umlazi responded by organising weekly mass meetings attended by hundreds of residents to which the Umlazi SAPS were invited. On 1 June, the Umlazi SAPS entered Councillor Xulu’s fortified compound, which had been protected by more senior police officers, and arrested two of Xulu’s employees for the murder of Komi Zulu. Thousands of residents of E-Section then organised to ensure that there was a fair trail and to push for the arrest and prosecution for Xulu. However the charges against the accused were not proven. Many residents felt that the trial had been perverted by political pressure from above. After the verdict a number of people who had been campaigning for a fair trial were subject to death threats and had to flee the area. No one has ever been arrested for the police murder of Monica Ngcobo or the murder of Sinethembe Myeni.
11. September 12, 2006: Arrest and Torture of S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu and Shooting of Nondomiso Mke
Abahlali received no invitation to meet with Mike Mabuyakulu after the 27 February march on his offices. However immediately after announcing at a press conference that Abahlali intended to use the Promotion of Access to Information Act to compel the eThekwini Municipality to disclose its plans for shack dwellers to shack dwellers the movement received a sudden invitation to attend a meeting with the office of the provincial MEC for housing on 6 September 2006. At that meeting Mxolisi Nkosi represented the Department. He threatened Abahlali members and demanded that they immediately cease speaking to the media. Abahlali promptly announced their refusal to complay with this order on radio. S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were then invited to debate the Housing Department on this and other matters on iGagasi FM on 12 September 2006. On their way to the radio station the vehicle in which Zikode, Zungu and Mnikelo Ndabankulu were travelling was stopped by the police and they were ordered out. When Zungu asked why he was being searched, an Indian police officer from the Sydenahm Police Station replied, “because the black man is always suspect.” They then attempted to arrest Zungu for “having a big mouth” and pushed Zikode into the car as well. Ndabankulu was not arrested. However his Abahlali t-shirt was removed from him and the police said that they were taking it to use as a mop in the station.
At the station Supt. Glen Nayager personally pushed both men into his office. They were handcuffed at the feet and ankles and severly assaulted with kicks and punches and by having their heads bashed against the walls and floor. Nayager had one of his officers video tape the assault. During the assault Nayager told both men that ‘this is what happens when you get cheeky and talk to the media’. The assault only stopped after Zungu, bleeding from the neck and head, lost consciousness. When he regained consciousness he was refused water and medical assistance. Both men were then charged with ‘assaulting a police officer’. The charges were later dropped after two court appearances due to an inability on the part of the police to supply the prosecutor with any evidence. Zungu has suffered permanent damage to his left ear.
The first three Abahlali members to arrive at the police station soon after the arrest were searched, threatened with assault and arrest and forced out of the police station. Other people who arrived a few minutes later were chased away at gun point including Zikode’s wife and Zungu’s elderly and frail mother. Racist insults were directed at Zungu’s mother who was told ‘Hamba inja!’ when she asked to see her son.
About 30 minutes later Kennedy Road residents decided to march on the Sydenham Police station after an emergency mass meeting in the hall. Although the Gatherings Act does allow for spontaneous protests the marchers were attacked without warning just outside the settlement with rubber bullets, stun grenades and live ammunition. The police chased people back into the settlement beating them and shooting at them in and around the hall and shacks.
When things began to calm down Nondomiso Mke asked if she could come out to retrieve a dropped cell phone. The police said yes. As she stepped into the searchlight she was shot in the knee with live ammunition. She is a domestic worker and the permanent damage to her knee has made her work very difficult.
With the support of Amnesty International Zikode, Zungu and Mke are suing the police. Amnesty has also encouraged the Independent Complaints Directorate to investigate this and other matters relating to Nayager and the Sydenham Police (some of which are mentioned here). That investigation is ongoing.
12. 4 December, 2006: Siyanda Road Blockade
(The Siyanda settlement is not affiliated to Abahlali but the Abahlali members were present at the road blockade and later secured legal support for the arrested people.)
500 people from the Siyanda settlement blockaded the Inanda road in Newlands, protesting the construction of a new road that would destroy their homes and dislocate them. Five people were arrested when police attempted to break up the protest, and all were seriously injured. The police chased people off the road and into their homes and some were shot with rubber bullets at close range in their homes. There are many photos documenting the injuries consequent to the police violence. None of the injured people received any medical help from the police at any time. One man later died from his wounds and a woman miscarried. The charges were eventually dropped due to an inability on the part of the police to provide the prosecutor with any evidence.
13. March 21, 2007: Human Rights Day Arrests
On 15 February 2007 Kennedy Road resident Thina Khanyile was attacked, stabbed 18 times and robbed of his shoes and watch at the Umgeni Road bus stop while on a training run for the Comrades Marathon. On 18 February a well known and widely feared criminal living in the settlement brough a man to Khanyile and asked if he was the attacker. Khanyile identified Mzwake Sithole from Ntuzuma as his attacker. The police were called. While waiting for the police, a few Kennedy Road residents began assaulting Sithole, but were soon pulled away by other residents. When the police arrived, they began to assault Sithole as they shoved him into the police van. Khanyile went to the station and filed charges of theft and attempted murder against Sithole. A week later he was informed that Sithole had died in police custody.
At 3 a.m. on 21 March 2007 police arrested 9 people, 8 members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee and Khanyile. Four of the arrested were women who were later released after a women’s protest that took the form of sitting in the police station all day with the children of the arrested women, as well as the children from the creche run by one of the women, demanding that the police care for the children. A 6th person, also a member of the Committee, was then arrested. The Kennedy 6 were charged with murder and held in Westville Prison for one month without bail. They only received bail after a highly publicised 12 day hunger strike and strong support from church leaders. Initially their bail conditions required them to go to rural areas and to keep away from Kennedy Road but after the support of a pro bono advocate was secured this was overturned and they were able to return home. They are due to go to trial on 25 February 2008. It is widely believe that the criminal who brought Sithole to Khanyile has given false testimony against the Kennedy 6 in exchange for not being prosecuted for various serious crimes. A similar strategy was used against the Landless Peoples’ Movement in Johannesburg in 2003.
14. 10 April, 2007: March on Nayager Banned
During the hunger strike by the Kennedy 6 Abahlali followed all the correct procedures to stage a mass march on Glen Nayager and the Sydenham Police station on 10 April 2007. A few hours before the march Nayager phoned S’bu Zikode to tell him that City Manager Mike Sutcliffe had banned the march, because, according to Sutcliffe, Zikode hadn’t attended the planning meeting with the city to discuss the proposed march. In fact this was crass trickery. Zikode had attended a planning meeting with senior police officers but they simply set up a second meeting and claimed that that was the ‘real one’. Zikode informed Nayager that the march would go ahead despite the ban. Nayager came to the settlement to physically enforce the ban. However Philani Zungu had a copy of the Gatherings Act and was able to show Nayager that a march of less than 14 people would not require Nayager or Sutcliffe’s permission. After tense negotiations and a vigorous protest in the settlement Nayager agreed and 14 people marched on the police station with candles. They knelt before Nayager as Zikode read the memorandum.
15. 8 August, 2007: Ricky Govender Escalates Harassment in Motala Heights
Gangster landlord Ricky Govender had threatened to have James Pillay’s house bulldozed. On 8 August he sent his bulldozers to knock down banana trees around Uncle James’ house. The destruction from the bulldozers included a water line bursting, washing lines being torn down, and toilet pits being filled in and destroyed. Shamita Naidoo, another Abahlali member and Motala Heights resident, came over to Uncle Jame’s house to take photographs of the destruction. Ricky Govender and his brothers started to pull and shove Naidoo off the property. They told her that they would pay R50 to have her killed. The Pinetown SAPS were called, but never responded to the incident. Shamita Naidoo and James Pillay reported Govender for harassment the next day at the Pinetown Station. They were told by Officer Naidoo, the officer who took the case, to call back in an hour for the case number. They called an hour later and were told that the investigating officer could not have the case filed because no one was assaulted, and it was therefore not a real case.
16. 9 August 2007: Women’s Day Arrests in Pemary Ridge
Officers from the Sydenham Police station knocked on the door of the then Deputy President of Abahlali, Philani Zungu, in the Pemary Ridge Settlement on 9 August 2007. When he opened the door they immediately began to search him. When Zungu asked why he was being searched he was promptly arrested him for “obstructing police in the course of their duties and resisting arrest”. The police van drove around wildly for almost two hours with Zungu in the back before taking him to the station.
By the time the police arrived at the Sydenham Police Station with Zungu around 50 women Abahlali members from the Pemary Ridge settlement had started a protest outside the station. Emergency protests are allowed under the Gatherings Act. However Supt. Glen Nayager ordered his officers to disperse the crowd which they did using tear gas and baton charges. While being chased, Thabiso Makamba fainted. Her sister Andisiwe Makamba stopped to try and give her some water and was severely beaten by the police officers. Both sisters were then arrested on the charge of ‘public violence’.
Harvard Philosopher Nigel Gibson was interviewing S’bu Zikode at the Kennedy Road settlement when news of the arrest of Zungu came through via sms. He went to the Sydenham Police station with Zikode where an NIA agent deleted his audio recording of the interview.
All charges against Zungu and the Makamba sisters on Philani and the sisters were dropped after the police failed to provide any evidence in support of the charges to the prosecutor.
A few days before the arrest Zungu had submitted a letter to the Land Invasions Unit and the Housing Department demanding that new shacks be allowed to be built in the settlement to accommodate people who have lived there as children and now had families of their own as well as people illegally evicted from the nearby Juba Place settlement. The new shacks were built after negotiations with an offical from the Housing Department but other officials did not accept this agreement. It is believed that Zungu was arrested because of the struggle to be allowed to build more shacks in Pemary Ridge.
17. 31 August 2007: SAPS Claimed to be in Support Ricky Govender’s Threats to the Media
Richard Pithouse, an Abahlali member, and two reporters from the Mercury newspaper went to Uncle James’ house to talk to him and investigate Govender’s recently issued notices to 20 different household to leave their homes by 31 August or have them bulldozed. Govender and some of his relatives accosted the journalists, threatened “to have them killed” and would not allow them to leave the property. Govender phoned the Pinetown SAPS to have Pithouse and the Mercury photographer Steven Naidoo arrested for trespassing. At the same time, one of the reporters managed to leave the scene and phone the Durban Metropolitan Police who arrived just before the Pinetown SAPS. The Metro Police drew their guns and told Govender that there was no case of trespass and that if he didn’t let the two go then he would be arrested for kidnapping. They also forced him to return Naidoo’s camera on the threat of arrest on a charge of theft.
18. 23 September 2007: SAPS Refuse to Respond to the Harassment of James Pillay (Uncle James)
Uncle James was returning home from Sunday Mass with his family when he was approached by a man who said that Ricky Govender wanted to see him immediately. Uncle James went to Govender’s house and was questioned about how evacuating his property was going. Uncle James informed Govender that he had no intention of leaving his home as Govender did not have a court order requiring his eviction. Govender told him he needed to move off his property by September 30th or be removed by force. Uncle James replied that he would need a court order or it would be illegal. Govender said he would set him up by putting a bag of dagga in Uncle James’ yard and calling his friends in the Pinetown SAPS to arrest him. When Uncle James was returning to his house, Govender yelled at Uncle James, verbally abused him, his wife and his son and made threats of violence. Uncle James tried to report the incident to the Pinetown Police, but he was told that they cannot go against the authority of a landlord and therefore they could not open a case for any incident that occurred on Govender’s land.
19. 28 September 2007: March on Mlaba
Permission was granted for a legal march from the Kennedy Road settlement to the offices of Councillor Yakoob Baig. The purpose of the march was to devliver a memorandum to Mayor Obed Mlaba. Before the march Abahlali met with Supt. Glen Nayager met with Abahlali and he assured them that they had the police department’s support for the march.
The march of around 3 000 people proceeded peacefully to Baig’s offices. But while the marchers were waiting for Mlaba’s representative to come and collect the memorandum they were attacked without warning or any warning to disperse being given. A line of clergy stood between the protesters and the police but they were forced out of the way with a water cannon followed by a baton attack. This was all captured on video. Although the Sydenham Police confiscated the camera on the spurious grounds that it ‘had been used in the commission of a crime’ and the footage was deleted before it was eventually returned an expert was able to recover the deleted footage from the hard drive.
Numerous people, including clergy, suffered minor injuries and 6 people were seriously injured and required hospitalisation. Mam Kikine, an elderly woman, was shot five times in the back at close range with rubber bullets.
Thirteen people were arrested on the charges of ‘Violating the Gatherings Act’ and ‘Public Violence’. When Mnikelo Ndabankulu arrived at the station to check on his comrades he was also arrested. They spent eight hours in the cells in the Sydenham Police station. There was no violence in the police station. Nayager explained that Fazel Khan had been arrested because he filmed the March on Nayager, that Richard Pithouse had been arrested because of his writings about the situation in Clare Estate and that Mnikelo Ndabankulu had been arrested because of a comment he had made about police brutality at the march. He warned Khan to stop filming, Pithouse to stop writing and Ndabankulu to stop talking. He also warned all the arrested people that Philani Zungu must drop the court case against Nayager for his arrest and torture by Nayager on 12 September 2006.
The Abahlali 14 have appeared in court 4 times and will appear again on 29 January 2008.
20. November 2007: Further Abuses on Motala Heights Residents
On the 11th of November, a man parked his truck across Uncle James’ driveway right in front of his door thus blocking him and his guests into his house. The man was politely asked to move his car and began to verbally abuse all the guests. The Pinetown police were called, but Uncle James was told that the police could not do anything because the landlord, Ricky Govender, gave permission for the man to park there.
On the 18th of November, Govender and his friends showed up on Uncle James’ property. They threw stones at Uncle James, his family and his friends and verbally abused them. They tried to barricade Uncle James’ driveway and again the Pinetown SAPS were called and Uncle James was told that there was nothing they could do.
Later a Motala Heights resident, Reggie, was told that if he went to an Abahlali meeting or supported the struggle that he would be kicked out of his home. Shamita Naidoo and Uncle James have frequently been threatened with death by Govender and have been told by residents who frequent his bar that “Ricky wants you dead”.
Many Motala Heights residents are also frequently subjected to threats by Govender saying that they must attend his temple. Shamita Naidoo, a key Abahlali activist in the area, has also received letters from Govender demanding that she not step on to any of the properties that he owns and rents to poor residents. In late November, it was discovered that Govender had demanded that the postman deliver mail from three lots of Motala residents to his house. He continues to dump toxic waste outside activists’ houses. The SAPS have never once agreed to open a case against Govender. It is believed that one of the senior officers in the Pinetown SAPS is the co-owner of Govender’s bar.
21: 13 November, 2007: Philani Zungu’s Third Arrest
On 13 November 2006 Philani Zungu was arrested and charged with ‘interfering with an electricy box’. He was released from custody on the same day, after much pressure from a pro bono laywer. He did not encounter any violence or suffer any injuries this time. He will appear in court again on 28 February 2008.