Arnett Drive Resident Shot With Live Ammunition, by Securicor Guard

Tuesday, 02 December 2008

Arnett Drive Resident Shot With Live Ammunition, by Securicor Guard


Nomhle Mkhetho, Thokozani Mkhotli & Nikiwe Zondi

On Tuesday last week (25/11) Thokozani Mkhotli, from the Arnett Drive settlement in Reservoir Hills, was shot by a Securicor Guard with live ammunition. The bullet entered his left buttock and emerged lower down in the front of his left thigh. The trajectory of the bullet shows clearly that he was shot from behind and from above. Thokozani is 33. He is from Bizana and works as a builder's labourer fixing ceilings.

Securicor Guards usually come to the settlements with the Municipality when they come to disconnect us from electricity.

The Struggle for Electricity

The eThekwini Municipality's 2001 electricity policy states that:

In the past (1990s) electrification was rolled out to all and sundry. Because of the lack of funding and the huge costs required to relocate services when these settlements are upgraded or developed, electrification of the informal settlements has been discontinued.

The decision to deny electricity to shack dwellers results in relentless shack fires. This is because people have to rely on candles for lighting and paraffin stoves for cooking and these are very dangerous in small shacks made of plastic, cardboard and wood. In order to keep ourselves safe we are forced to connect ourselves to electricity. We do this very carefully and have never had an accident. Once an area is connected the fires stop, children can do homework and life is safer and better.

For more on this see A Big Devil in the Jondols: A report on shack fires at http://abahlali.org/?p=4013.

But the Municipality sends in their workers, sometimes with Securicor guards and sometimes with the police, to disconnect the people. These armed disconnections are often violent and people's property is often damaged or stolen. Sometimes people are arrested. Once the guards or police have gone people immediately begin the work of reconnecting themselves and everyone puts money together to pay the bail of anyone who is arrested. However there have often been fires before the work of reconnecting everyone has been finished.

For information on recent armed attacks on other settlements to disconnect the people from electricity see:

Motala Heights: (Pinetown): http://abahlali.org/?p=3931
Kennedy Road: (Clare Estate): http://abahlali.org/?p=3342
eMagwaveni (Tongaat): http://abahlali.org/?p=3490

Arnett Drive

The Arnett Drive Settlement has been in Reservoir Hills since 1972. Some of the people living there came there after being evicted from Cato Manor in 1959 and then Newlands in 1971. In October last year the Municipality threatened to demolish some shacks in Arnett Drive. In January this year the eThekwini Municipality made an illegal attempt to demolish shacks in the settlement. A court order was secured to prevent the demolitions. The Municipality tried to oppose the interdict in court but judgment on the matter was handed down in August this year and the Municipality lost – the interdict defending the shacks against an illegal attack by the Municipality still stands. For more information you can read these press releasess:

Illegal evictions threatened in Arnett Drive (October 2007): http://www.abahlali.org/?p=2742

Illegal evictions attempted in Arnett Drive and stopped with a court interdict (January – August 2008): http://abahlali.org/?p=3235

The Shooting of Thokozani Mkhotli in Arnett Drive on 25 November 2008

On Tuesday 18 November Municipal workers arrived at the Arnett Drive settlement to disconnect the people from electricity. They effected the disconnection at the electricity box near the road but did not enter the settlement, which is some distance from the road on the banks of a river running through a valley. They did not take our cables. Although disconnections are often violent this time there was no violence, probably because they did not enter the settlement, and because they did not come with security guards or police. The people reconnected themselves after the Municipality workers left. People always reconnect themselves after a disconnection. We all need electricity – especially the women. It is the same everywhere in South Africa and also in Turkey, Brazil, Nigeria – in all the places where the poor are told to live without electricity and left to burn in the fires. People will not give up their right to electricity. Governments will just have to accept this. But if they don't it is just impossible for them to disconnect everyone every day. We are many, they are few. We will keep connecting until we die.

On Tuesday 25 November two Securicor guards returned to Arnett Drive. They did not come with Municipality workers which is strange but people assumed that they had come back to disconnect again and, this time, to dig up our cables and take them. People asked them what they were doing there and they said that they had come to disconnect the electricity.

One of the guards then fired a shot across the river into the settlement. Thokozani was in the toilet in the settlement across the river from the guards at the time. He came out to see what was happening. The guards pointed at him and as he turned to run he was shot, from behind. There was no warning. The people called the Securicor guards to come and help because Thokozani needed to get to hospital and the guards had a van but they ran away. We then called the police telling them that there had been a shooting. They came quickly and we told them that Nikiwe Zondi was walking past the guards on her way to work when they shot Thokozani and that she could identify the man who had shot Thokozani. The police fetched the guards and brought them back with their boss. Their boss said that they had shot Thokozani because he was the one that had reconnected the cables to the box. The Securicor boss took the police to the electricity box to show them our connections. He also said that his guards had been attacked by women with stones. We didn't throw any stones. We just told asked them what they were doing there and told them to go away because this is our place.

We tried to open a case with the police. As usual they just ignored us. But after Abahlali baseMjondolo put a big pressure on them they opened the case. It is case number 302/11/2008 and the Investigating Officer is M.N. Pillay.

There are copies of all the documents relating to this case, including the doctor's reports etc, in the Abahlali baseMjondolo office at the Kennedy Road settlement. The office can be contacted on (27) (031) 269 1228.

The Way Forward

1. Electricity for all

We condemn this attack on our humanity. The issue of electricity is becoming an issue of bullets and blood. The solution to this problem is to electrify the shacks. If the government continues to refuse to do this then the shack dwellers will have to complete and defend this work ourselves. On 22 September this year we held a City Wide Shack Fire Summit together with our comrades in the Poor People's Alliance. We took a decision to discuss a country wide defiance campaign in all of our movements. The proposed defiance campaign would take the form of all shack dwellers and other people denied electricity across the country openly connecting themselves in defiance against unjust polices. Please see the statement from the Poor People's Alliance at: http://abahlali.org/node/4238

2. Oppose the Privatisation of the War on the Poor

We do not know the Securicor Guard who shot Thokozani. But we might easily find that he lives in a shack himself and that he also doesn't have electricity – that he lives at constant risk of fire, that his kids can't do their homework easily.

Many Abahlali baseMjondolo members are security guards. It really distresses us that one of our colleagues decided to shoot like this – to even risk killing another poor man for one crime only – the crime of also being a poor man. The man who shot Thokozani needs to answer to us. All the Security Guards who allow themselves to become private soldiers in the war on the poor – evicting people, disconnecting people from water and electricity – need to answer to their brothers and sisters. We need to have serious discussions about this in all our communities and movements.

It is clear that one of the key problems is the Security Guard's union – SATWU. They only look at issues like wages and even then they don't take a strong stand. Security guards are heavily exploited and yet our bosses tell us to join SATWU – clearly this union is not dangerous to the bosses.

We need a union that would stand up strongly against the exploitation of security guards but would also stand strong against the use of security guards as private soldiers in the war on the poor. We need a union that would support all its members to refuse to attack poor people for the crime of being poor – a union that would refuse to offer security at evictions and at water and electricity disconnections. We intend to discuss this need for a new union very seriously in our movement and with our comrades in the Poor People's Alliance. We also need to have serious discussions about unions for domestic workers and street traders too.

In the meantime we will be discussing possible actions against Securicor. This will include protests but also legal action. In the past we have been able to get support for organisations like Amnesty International to sue the police after they have attacked us and shot our members with live ammunition. We will look for support in order to be able to sue Securicor. These companies do not understand our humanity but they do understand money and will think twice about shooting poor people if it will cost them money.

Securicor is owned by Group 4 Securicor (G4S) in England. We call on our comrades in England to register their protest with the G4S. They can be contacted on +44 (0) 7973 672 649 or media@g4s.com . As well as asking them about this shooting it would also be good to ask them why they have been working for a Municipality that has a history of routinely engaging in behaviour towards its poorest citizens that is not only unlawful but is also criminal – such as violent attacks on peaceful protests and evictions carried out without an order of the court.

For more on police violence see: http://abahlali.org/node/3245

For more on unlawful evictions see: http://www.cohre.org/southafrica

Conclusion

It is very disappointing that this shooting happens at this time. After years of severe police violence against shack dwellers in the Reservoir Hills, Clare Estate and Sydenham areas our struggle has finally succeeded in forcing the police to recognise our humanity. After years of contempt from the Municipality, life threatening conditions in the settlements due to lack of services and forced removals to rural human dumping grounds we are now progressing well with negotiations with the Municipality to upgrade our settlements where they are. But how can we claim progress when someone can be shot, from behind, with live ammunition, because his community want to keep themselves safe from fire?

For further information and comment on this shooting or the issue of electricity and fire please contact:

Thokozani Mkhotli, Arnett Drive: 079 999 0914

Nomhle Mkhetho, Arnett Drive: 079 258 6043

Zodwa Nsibande, Abahlali baseMjondolo office: 082 830 2707

Mashumi Figlan, Security Guard and Abahlali baseMjondolo Vice-President: 079 584 3995