Update: Sunday 30 May 2010 – Two shacks belonging to LPM leaders in eTwatwa were burnt down early this morning as the police looked on. The attack on LPM is now turning into an ethnic attack on Tsonga people. Click here to read more.
Saturday, 29 May 2010
Landless People’s Movement Press Statement
Police Attack the Landless People’s Movement in eTwatwa, Ekurhuleni
One Person is Dead and another Seriously Injured
On Sunday 23 May residents of the bond houses in Protea South, Soweto, attacked the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) in the shacks in Protea South. They went around disconnecting us from electricity and beating those who had been connected to electricity. They tried to burn down Maureen Mnisi’s shack and two people were shot. One died on the scene.
The background to the police attack on the LPM in eTwatwa is that on Tuesday 24 May we organised a march on the Councillor for Ward 65, Cllr Baleka. The different extensions each had their own demands but at the last point of the memorandum we all united on one demand which is that the Councillor must immediately step down. We indicated that we expected a response to our demands within seven days.
On Thursday 26 May the Provincial Government sent us a fax saying that they would meet us next Wednesday.
The situation in Extension 18 of eTwetwa is very bad. There is no electricity, no sewerage, no roads, not even water – there is nothing. The Councillor did start a project to build toilets but she said that only 717 of the 1 149 people would benefit as the rest of the people would be evicted to make way for a new road to be built by the provincial government. They want to move these people to transit areas. Obviously we cannot accept this. We have stayed in Extension 18 for many years.
We were expecting to attend the meeting with the Provincial Government on Wednesday next week. But yesterday, on Friday, Cllr Buleka, using the car of the Erkuleni Municipality drove around calling us to a meeting to be held today. But we had already suspended her. We no longer recognise her.
So today a meeting was held in the community and it was decided to go the councillor’s office. The councillor’s supporters provoked the protestors and in the end stones were thrown at her office. At 10:00 a.m. the police came and they used their guns. They used live ammunition. We have one of their bullets. They shot one woman dead. Another woman is in hospital right now having an operation.
After the shooting the people became even more angry. Some community members burnt a shack of one of the councillor’s supporters in retaliation to the murder of their comrade. The police attacked the people again and used teargas. Even more community members arrived and between ten and fifteen people were arrested by the police. The police are now hunting all the LPM leaders from extension 18 and extension 10 in eTwatwa. We have all gone into hiding.
The ward councillor must step down. There are no services in eTwatwa and the councillor is oppressing the people, trying to stop us from organising and even supporting the plans to have us evicted to a transit area.
We are calling for Msholozi to come down. He must come down to the people, hear our anger and then act against the councillor and the police. If he refuses to do this then he is clearly the President of the politicians and not the president of the people.
The situation in Protea South is still tense. The police are around. On Thursday we had a meeting with Eskom. Eskom said that they can’t install electricity to the shacks as we are not proclaimed. It is true that the government has never proclaimed the area in which we have built our shacks. But the people have proclaimed it. Anyway, the RDP houses, the Masakhane houses and the bond houses are all on land that has been proclaimed. It is just the shack dwellers that are denied the right to stay in Protea South and denied the right to services. Eskom did say that they will launch a pilot project with one electricity pole for every 82 families. But the total number of shacks is around 6 400. One electricity pole for every 82 families is not a good enough response to our demand for electricity. If the government continues to deny us legal access to electricity we will continue to appropriate electricity for ourselves.
Protea South remains in darkness after the shack dwellers burned the transformer in response to the attempt by the residents of the bond houses, who are calling themselves the Homeowners Association, to violently disconnect us from electricity. Everyone has now been disconnected. If the poor are not allowed to have electricity why should we allow the owners of private houses to enjoy it?
The Homeowners Association continue to say that they don’t want shack dwellers here and that they want us to be removed.
Every time the government says that Operation Khanyisa – community organised electricity connections – are ‘criminal’ they turn poverty into a crime. It is the government’s criminalisation of poverty that has incited the homeowners to attack us.
Bheki Cele is the one that has called on the police to shoot to kill. When as the poor we are turned into criminals we are placed in the line of fire. When we organise to fight against oppressive councillors and for access to services the police are shooting us. But when the poor go to vote then the police are there making sure that we are safe. When we are killed by the police we hold Cele responsible.
Organised shack dwellers have to defend ourselves when we are attacked by the police, the rich or, as it happened in Kennedy Road in Durban, the ANC.
Self defence is no offence.
We are very worried about the World Cup. Billions are wasted on the World Cup, billions that should have gone to meet the most urgent need of the poor. The government tells us that we must ‘feel it’ but in Protea South we don’t even have electricity. Some of us are in hiding from the police. People have been shot and two people have died in recent days.
The government expects us to be silent to everything that has been done to us. We will not be silent.
For more information and comment please contact:
Dan Mofokeng (eTwatwa) 078 679 9435
Edward Leople (eTwatwa) 083 885 5009
Maureen Mnisi (Protea South) 082 337 4514