Arrest and release of Simphiwe Zwane in Thembelihle – 24 October 2011
Councillor Simphiwe Zwane, a ward councillor for the Operation Khanyisa Movement (OKM) – an affiliate of the Democratic Left Front (DLF) – representing the Thembelihle informal settlement and its surrounds, was arrested late on Friday 21 October 2011 on charges of intimidation. The charges stemmed from her participation in and organisation of recent protests at the settlement. Zwane was charged with intimidation of the local ANC councillor.
The arrest took place the day after Bhayiza Miya, another organiser of the protests was released on bail by the High Court, after it decided that there was insufficient evidence against him to support an almost identical charge of intimidating the local ANC councillor – and no evidence at all against him on a number of other charges (including public violence and malicious damage to property) relating to the recent protests.
Update – 24 October 2011
Councillor Zwane was released today after the Control Prosecutor at the Protea Magistrates’ Court declined to prosecute because there was not enough evidence to support the charge against her. Had Zwane not been represented by a SERI attorney, Teboho Mosikili, Zwane would likely have been remanded in custody for at least another day. Mosikili forced the police to produce the evidence on which she had been charged, leading the Prosecutor to conclude that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the charge. The charge was then withdrawn.
Zwane’s arrest is the latest in a series of arrests of people who participated in or organised the recent protests in Thembelihle. Some people arrested claimed that they were just walking by the protests when the police apprehended them and had absolutely nothing to do with them. The organisers of the protest, including Miya and Zwane, have apparently been arrested at the behest of members of the local ANC, including the local ANC councillor, Janice Zondi. Little to no evidence has been produced against them and they have been released with the help of competent legal representation – after spending periods of a few days to over a month in detention.
Such evidence as has been produced is in the form of statements from local ANC members, upon which the police justify the arrest and detention of the organisers of the protests. Zwane, Miya and the other protestors are invariably identified as the ANC’s political opponents.
It remains to be seen whether the charges proffered against Miya and the others can be substantiated, but, at present there is insufficient evidence to justify the refusal of bail, let along to bring them to trial. SERI is concerned that the police, the department of correctional services, and the criminal courts are being enlisted (more or less knowingly and willingly) in a politically motivated campaign to criminalise protest and to stifle opposition to the state and the ANC in the Thembelihle informal settlement. Zwane’s arrest, in particular, appears to have taken place on the mere say-so of the ANC councillor, or an ANC member close to her – and in the absence of any evidence against her.
Please contact the following DLF representatives for more information:
Vishwas Satgar (DLF) – 082 775 3420
Mazibuko K. Jara (DLF) – 083 651 0271
Sphiwe Segodi (OKM) – 072 655 4177