Against Police Brutality – March On Glen Nayager, 10 April 2007 | Abahlali baseMjondolo
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Against Police Brutality – March On Glen Nayager, 10 April 2007

Flickr albumGlen Nayagerphotopoliceprotest

See March on the Sydenham Police Station for the full story and click here to see video footage of the march entitled Nayager Falls, Abahlali Rises.

Update: Click here to read Jacques Depelchin s open letter to Glen Nayager and, for a blast from the past, click here for one of Raj Patel s many blog entries on Nayager.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

MEMORANDUM HANDED TO SENIOR SUPERINTENDENT GLEN NAYAGER OF THE SYDENHAM POLICE STATION

Glen Nayager you have vandalized our humanity. We are here to reclaim our police station. Neither you nor your powerful friends own this police station. This police station belongs to the people who live in this area. We live in shacks and we are wearing red shirts and demanding the right to continue to live here in the city, to live in decent houses, to have access to electricity and water and toilets while we wait for these houses and for our children to be able to attend the schools here. But this does not mean that we are not people. None of this makes us criminals. We are part of the people to whom this police station belongs. You have broken the trust of a large part of the people for whom you are supposed to be working. You were supposed to be our servant, not our oppressor.

Since you were entrusted with this police station the police in this area have treated all shack dwellers as criminals. And since we united as Abahlali baseMjondolo you have constantly harassed and attacked our movement. Your job is to protect all of the people in your area but you have decided to make the poor your enemy. You have made this police station famous across the whole city, and sometimes the whole country, and even in other countries, for its racism, its violence, its cruelty, its criminality and its brutal oppression of an organisation that has only asked for what is right.

The main complaints that have emerged against you, and the way that this police station has been run since you arrived here (remembering that shack dwellers worked well with the Sydenham Police before you came here) in our initial discussion over the Easter weekend are the following:

1. RACISM: You, and many of your officers, are guilty of extreme, systematic and casual racism towards African people. You insult us in the most ugly language, language that is supposed to be part of the past. You order us around and insult us and even our mothers and father in isiFanakalo like it is 15 June 1976 and you are a baas sitting at his braai and we are all your garden boys and kitchen girls. When your officers do this ‘stop and search’ it is only Africans who are stopped and searched. If there is a line of young men waiting for the taxi your officers leave the coloured men and the Indian men and search only the Africans. Everyone knows this. Sometimes even the young coloured and Indian men become embarrassed. We joke and say ‘The black man is always a suspect’ but it is not funny. We and our parents and our ancestors did not struggle for this. What goes for one must go for all. Stop and search everyone or stop and search no one. We have built a non-racial movement and we are proud of this. Many poor Indians have joined us and we have welcomed them as brothers and sisters and they have welcomed us into their communities in the same way. But, although there are some officers, Indian and African, at your police station who are embarrassed by the racism that you have bought here you have turned what should be the peoples’ police station into the headquarters for racism in Wards 23 & 25.

2. CRIMINALISATION OF THE POOR: You, and many of your officers, speak and act as though all poor people and especially shack dwellers, are criminals. You openly call us all ‘rogues’ and we have seen how you show us and our communities on your website. You and your officers come to us as though we are all criminals and not as though we are citizens deserving protection.

3. YOU MAKE POVERTY A CRIME: We have very few toilets in our settlements. This is not our fault. We have marched for toilets and had our marches illegally banned and been illegally beaten and arrested by you and your officers on those marches. But still we have the situation where a thousand people share one toilet. For this reason we often have to urinate in the bushes. Yet your officers are always arresting and beating us for urinating in public. On New Years’ Eve one boy who was visiting from the Transkei was even shot in the leg at the Foreman Road settlement for running away after he got a shock when your officers tried to arrest him for urinating in public. We agree that urinating in public is not good. In fact it is a big problem because it is often not safe for women to be alone in the bushes at night. But the cause of this problem is those people who refuse to give us toilets.

4. NO RESPECT FOR OUR HOMES: You and your officers have no respect for the sanctity of our homes. You behave as though our shacks do not exist. You push your way inside anytime without knocking, you break the shacks and our things inside our shacks any time you feel like it, you search our homes without a warrant turning everything upside down and you even arrest people for drinking ‘in public’ while we are sitting in our shacks. There have been cases when your officers have pushed their way into our shack churches. We know that you do not want our shacks to exist but they do exist. They are our homes and they must be treated with the dignity of any other home. From now on we will lay a charge of trespass against any of your officers that enter our homes without permission and we will lay a charge of wilful damage to property against any of your officers that damages our homes or the things that we have inside them.

5. YOU PROTECT AND WORK WITH CRIMINALS: We have always said that there are poor criminals and that there are also rich criminals. You work with both kinds against the innocent. But we are especially concerned that you protect well known violent criminals in our communities, people who prey on rich and poor alike, and then use them as your informers. These are the people who, in exchange for your protection from arrest and prosecution, are prepared to give false statements against innocent people who work for the good of the community. You want to keep criminals out of prison so that you can put innocent people inside.

6. YOU WORK WITH PEOPLE THAT HAVE DECLARED THEMSELVES THE ENEMIES OF SHACK DWELLERS AND OF OUR MOVEMENT: There are people who want all shack dwellers to be forced out of all the areas in Wards 23 and 25. You and some of your officers openly support these people. The police who are supposed to be protecting us tell us to ‘go back where you came from’. Sometimes we are even told that we are ‘bringing AIDS to this community’. Some of these people who don’t want shack dwellers in the city are very angry that shack dwellers have united across these two wards, across Durban and across other towns and made ourselves strong. There are people like the Ward Councillors and the City Manager and others who slander our movement and say that if we speak for ourselves we are ‘criminals’ or that we are being ‘used’ by other people or that we are ‘political’ and that therefore we have no right to speak and must be illegally and violently repressed. You have publicly aligned yourself with these people when as a police officer you should be neutral and treat every one equally before the law. You openly tell us, often while you are beating us, that ‘there will be no more red shirts here’. After your officers had beaten Mnikelo Ndabankulu and stolen his red shirt in September last year you boasted that that shirt was now the mop in your station. You are not even the spokesperson for your station – that is the job of Captain Lazarus and yet you always personally go to the media to lie about us. It is clear that you hate us and that you hate our movement. But as a police officer you are a servant of the public and we are part of that public. You should keep your hatred private and not put it at the centre of your work.

7. YOU IGNORE REAL CRIMES AGAINST SHACK DWELLERS BUT ACT AS THOUGH IT IS A CRIME FOR SHACK DWELLERS TO SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES: When a women in the shacks is beaten by her husband she will probably be ignored if she goes to your station for help. If she refuses to leave until she is helped and brings friends or comrades to stand with her in the station and demand help then you might send a van to the settlement but your officers won’t come into the settlement to arrest the abuser. They will just park outside and tell the victim to go and fetch the abuser which of course she cannot do. But if we have a small protest and are not hurting or threatening to hurt anyone 7 vans can be there in minutes and you’ll immediately start beating us and shooting at us with rubber bullets. Sometimes you’ll even shoot at us with your pistols. You ban our marches which is illegal. You attack us without warning when we are marching which is illegal. You beat us and even shoot at us when we are running away which is illegal. Your officers have even arrested people on charges of Attending an Illegal Gathering and Public Violence while they are sleeping in their beds or standing at the bus stop because you know that they plan to attend a march later. This too is illegal. You arrest us all the time, keep us in the cells and beat us, then make us go to court 5 or 6 times (while you and your offices fail to attend the case as it get delayed again and again) before the charges are eventually dropped when you never had any case against us in the first place. You misuse arrest as a form of punishment and intimidation. It is clear that you do not see shack dwellers as citizens of this country.

8. YOU REFUSE TO ALLOW US TO OPEN CASES AGAINST YOU AND YOUR OFFICERS: Many, many times after we have been insulted, beaten, robbed and had our basic political rights stripped from us by you and your officers we have tried to open cases against the police. You just refuse to allow us to open the cases and hit us again. Your officers fear you too much to allow us to open cases against you. For instance after your officers shot Nondomiso Mke with live ammunition in September last year she was not allowed to open a case. Philani Zungu then went with her to insist that she be allowed to open the case even though he had been personally beaten unconscious by you on the same night as Nondomiso was shot by having his head bashed against the wall. Yet Nondomiso was still not allowed to open the case and now Philani is assaulted every time you find him on Burnwood Road. When S’bu Zikode went to open a case against you other officers feared you too much to open the case. The same happened to System Cele after officers acting on your command beat her so badly that her front teeth were broken. The law allows us to open cases against you but you do not allow us this right.

9. YOU PERSONALLY THREATEN JOURNALISTS AND ACADEMICS AND STEAL PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE: You have personally threatened journalist and academics who have witnessed your illegal behaviour towards us including your racist insults and your assaults, and you have stolen their cameras. One journalist, Carvin Goldstone, lodged a formal complaint against you and one academic, Raj Patel, tried to make a complaint through the ICD. He failed because the ICD told him that he needed a case number first and no police officers were prepared to open a case against you. If you do not allow us to speak for ourselves and if journalists and academics cannot work freely in your area then how will the truth about your criminality ever be told?

Therefore tonight we inform you and we inform the public that:

• We are about to begin our civil court action against you for the wrongful arrest and brutal assault of S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu and the shooting of Nondomiso Mke on 12 September 2006. We are suing you with the support of X-Y in Amsterdam and Amnesty International in London. Shanta Reddy will be acting for us.
• From now on we intend to sue you and any of your officers every time you break the law by taking property from us and our friends (such as our red t-shirts, our loudhailers and the cameras of journalists) and every time you insult, arrest and assault us without good cause.
• We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate to undertake an immediate investigation of the whole station with a particular focus on your leadership looking at the endemic and very shocking levels of racism and corruption, systemic organised violence against the poor and blatantly illegal and routinely violent political intolerance. We are currently beginning to compile a dossier of complaints against yourself and this station to submit to the Directorate. We will host a meeting in every Abahlali settlement and branch across Wards 23 and 25 to collect a list of all the complaints and we will also invite people in Sydenham Heights and in the various ratepayers’ associations to add their own complaints to our dossier. Furthermore we will also invite the journalist and the academic who have already made formal complaints against you for, respectively, a threat of violence should they report your violence and confiscation of a camera with pictures of your violence to add their complaints to our dossier.
• We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate to recognise that the investigation into the death of Mzwakhe Sithole by the Sydenham Police has not been conducted with any integrity, that it has been misused to further your political agenda against the Kennedy Road Development Committee and Abahlali baseMjondolo, that you have failed to investigate the role of the Sydenham Police in this death and that, given the violent history of severe political intolerance at this police station under your command, this police station can not mount a credible investigation into this or any other matter involving us. We are asking the Independent Complaints Directorate for a credibly independent investigation from officers outside of your jurisdiction who will be able to look fairly and honestly at the role of both Kennedy Road residents and the Sydenham Police in this death.

And tonight we demand that you:

• Immediately release our innocent comrades who are now in their 9th day of a hunger strike in Westville Prison
• Immediately abandon the investigation by the Sydenham Police into the death of Mzwakhe Stihole
• Immediately agree to an independent investigation into the death Mzwakhe Sithole to be supervised by the Independent Complaints Directorate that will examine the role of people in the Kennedy Road settlement and in the Sydenham Police Station
• Immediately step aside pending the outcome of a thorough investigation of the whole police station with a particular focus on your leadership to be undertaken by the Independent Complaints Directorate. Given your well known tendency to intimidate and harass even your own police officers as well as people in the communities outside the station it is clear that such an investigation has no chance of success while you are still working here. It will even be difficult to get people to be willing to put their names on our list of complaints against you and the station while you are working here. You are a criminal and you are a violent armed criminal hiding behind all the protection of your high office. The people that you are supposed to protect fear you. Therefore it is essential that you step aside while all this work is being done.

And tonight we promise that:

• Immediately after you have stepped down we will approach the Sydenham Police station with a view to setting up a standing committee made up of officers from the station and our communities. This committee will meet weekly and will be able to meet at other times in case of emergencies. Its purpose will be to ensure that shack dwellers and the police can work together to ensure that shack dwellers enjoy the protection of the police and that the police enjoy the active support of shack dwellers in their work to end crime in this area.

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Nayager Did Not Escape

Update by Richard Pithouse

A complex and full day which will require lots of discussion between lots of people to piece together properly. Here are the bones of some it.

Morning

S bu Zikode is able to visit the Kennedy 5 on the 9th day of their hunger strike. They are in a very high secure ward, about 7 security doors to get through. The prison officials hope that S bu will persuade them to stop the hunger strike. The requests from the prison s nurses and social workers have failed. S bu finds the 5 to be very weak, 3 cannot stand any longer. The other two can only stand for a few minutes. They make it clear that they will stay on hunger strike until they are released or they will die in prison. They will give no consent to their arrest. S bu asks the prison officials how they will get to court on Friday for the bail hearing when already 3 of the 5 can t stand and so they clearly can t be thrown into the usual van where, as he knows well enough, everyone is bumped around between the cells and the court. The officials say it is not their responsibility.

Early to mid afternoon

Glen Nayger phones S bu, insults him and says You rouges think you are too clever but the march is banned . S bu immediately goes to see the relevant police officials to find out if this is true. They say that City Manager Mike Sutcliffe has refused to give permission because S bu failed to attend the meeting scheduled to discuss the march. S bu explains that he did in fact attend that meeting. They say that he didn t it. After a while it turns out that a clever trick was played. The meeting was scheduled for Friday in the city s offices. On Thursday officers from Crime Intelligence had phoned to say that the meeting had been moved to Kennedy Road. S bu Zikode and Anton Zamisa attended the meeting with the officers from Crime Intelligence at Kennedy Road taking minutes and the officers names, rank and numbers etc. Now the City claimed that other police officers were waiting for S bu to attend the meeting to happen in town but that he failed to do so and so on this basis Sutcliffe has denied permission . The Crime Intelligence officers confirm that they attended a meeting in Kennedy Road and that this was presented as the official meeting for the march. The police officials are informed from above that Sutcliffe s ban stands. S bu receives a warning that Sutcliffe has instructed that he should be arrested if the march proceeds.

Late afternoon

A lawyer is looked for in order to interdict the city once again to overturn the march ban. Shanta Reddy offers help. It s after 5 by the time the meeting with the advocate really gets under way and the march is scheduled for 6. After carefully going through everything the advocate concludes that it may be risky to go to court with an urgent application on the basis that the judge may agree, despite the obvious trickery, that the real meeting was not attended because the police officer in charge of march authorisation in the city was not present at the fake meeting called by Crime Intelligence. It is decided to return to the settlement where people are gathering for the march. On the way back Nayager phones S bu and threatens him and demands an assurance that the march will not happen. S bu tells Nayager that the memorandum will be delivered to him tonight as planned. Another calls comes through, this time from David Ntseng, to say that a police helicopter is circling low over the settlement.

Early evening

People start arriving at Kennedy Road for the march. People come from Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg as well as Wards 23 and 25 in Durban. Nayager arrives at Kennedy Road in his BMW with back up. S bu, Philani Zungu and a priest who has come to support the march as well as Pume from the DDP go to the office under the hall to negotiate. It isn t long since Nayager s brutal assault on S bu and Philani. In the hall people sing and dance making sure that Nayager can hear their power underneath. There are lots of journalists there. The mood is angry and defiant. After almost two hours the meeting is over and S bu addresses everyone. He explains that Nayager had insisted that there could not be any sort of protest at all because Mike Sutcliffe had not given permission but that Philani had bought out a copy of the Gatherings Act and shown Nayager that it is legally acceptable for less than 15 people to march at any time and without permission. At first Nayager disputes this and repeats that there can be no march without Sutcliffe s approval. But eventually he has to concede Philani s point. 14 people are chosen to take the memorandum to Nayager. It s 2 priests and 12 Bahlali – 8 women and 4 men. The journalists leave. The group of 14 go up to the police station. They kneel at the gate with lit candles in the posture of prayer. Nayager stands at the entrance with 4 armed men in bullet proof vests and another who videos everything for the police. Fazel Khan stands right up against the police camera man and films it all for Abahlali – its lens to lens, gaze to gaze. With his 13 comrades behind him S bu, standing eyeball to eyeball with Nayager, reads the memorandum to Nayager. The spiritual power of the event is extraordinary.

The delegation of 14 return to Kennedy Road and the video of the whole event is screened to the waiting people. People are deeply moved and inspired. There is huge cheering as everyone sees the video footage of Nayager accepting and signing for the memorandum. Abahalali claim a victory.

Tomorrow Bishop Reuben Phillip will visit the hunger strikers.

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Fillipo Mondi on the March on Nayager

In the past few weeks the State Repression Machine has been working hard to silence the impoverished and oppressed of this country. We have seen the way they tried to criminalize normal people but we did not remain silent. We have seen the way they tried to bring false accusations against normal people, but we did not remain silent, we fought them back.

We fought them back in a strange and curious way, in a way that seems ridiculous and paradoxical: we knelt before them while we were saying: you have brutalized our humanity . We have rediscovered our humanity in our kneeling down, moreover, we have discovered that our non-violence adds something to our humanity and dignity.

First of all, we have said clearly and loudly that we are not like them. We do not use violence to affirm our supposed superiority. We do not treat other human beings as if they were animals. We do not respond with guns and violence when there are conflicts and political divergences. Our courage is grounded in the righteousness of our cause and therefore, we do not need guns and repression to confront other opinions.

Secondly, we have shown what we really are and the courage which moves us. We have shown that people, especially the impoverished, are ready to pay the price of their ideas and motivations. Kneeling down before 20 armed people is not an act of cowardly on the contrary, it is a demonstration that we are even ready to die in order to win a better life for all. Kneeling down means to say: you can even kill us but before, please, look straight in our eyes . That night we forced Nayager and his people to look at what Abahlali are. That night we brought before the police station our stories, our daily struggles, our families, our communities, our longing for a better life, the presence of the whole movement and, like a sacred liturgy, we have offered all these things to them. In this offering we have said that that is what we are, we are our communities, our families, our movement, our longing for a better life. Are we dangerous criminals? Do we deserve such repression and violence?

That night people of Kennedy Road have grasped something very important about the Good News of Liberation. To begin with, they have grasped that Jesus wants the conversion of the oppressor and not his/her death. Kneeling down before Nayager has also been a prayer, an extreme effort to win his humanity back. It is not enough to have shown our dignity, we want also to see Nayager s dignity and humanity. That night people of Kennedy road have lived out the Prophetic message of Jesus:

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.

If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.

Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.

But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,

that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust . (Matthew 5:38-45)

The point that Jesus makes here is not to be silent and submissive in front of oppression. Jesus asks the oppressed something very difficult and radical: He asks, through a non-violent struggle, to win the oppressor back. More radically, Turn the other one to him as well , Hand him your cloak as well , Go with him for two miles , Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you are not requests to the oppressed but to the oppressor. These actions, somehow, force the oppressor to think at what s/he is doing. In the oppressed non-violent resistance is rooted the question Why? Why are you striking, robbing, oppressing, hating me? This can be seen clearly during Jesus trial: When the soldier slapped Him, Jesus did not offer the other cheek but asked: Why do you strike me? If there is some offence in what I said point it out… (John 18:23) The soldier did not reply anything. That is also what happened in front of the police station. Kneeling down has been like to ask Why are you doing this to us? and this has been very effective!! It was clear the embarrassment shown by most of the police who were protecting Nayager from us (and maybe, as S bu pointed out, also protecting ourselves from him). Their embarrassment was revealed by their expressions, by the policewoman who, before wearing the helmet, was singing the same song which we were singing, and other little details…

The people of Kennedy Road grasped that Nayager needs to rediscover his humanity and helped him in this process. The fact that he and his policeman were embarrassed is a good sign!

The intuition of the Shack Dwellers tells also another important thing. It tells that Abahlali BaseMjondolo is not struggling for power but for a different society where everyone can be at home, even Nayager. Moreover, in the process of struggling they are already building this new society trough the relationships and solidarity which the struggles itself facilitate. Two examples can help to understand better. The first one is the net of solidarity created during this time of crisis, a solidarity that goes beyond races and nationalities. Above all, the solidarity developed within Abahlali itself.

Secondly, the new relationships developed among some Priests, Reverends, Ministers and Religious. Paradoxically, the terrible repression faced by Abahlali has been the driving force in uniting several pastors and religious from different denomination. Abahlali BaseMjondolo is a prophetic movement which is helping the Church to be a Church and this among other things, means to consider impoverished people the moving principle and not just the beneficiaries of Church s actions.