Philani Zungu arrested by the notorious Sydenham police once again

Update, 5/06/2008: Philani plead guilty and received a fine.

Update, 4/04/2008: The case has been set down for trial on 5 June 2008.

Update, 28/02/2008: The case has been remanded till 4 April 2008.

Update, 11/12/2007: Philani appeared in the Pinetown magistrate's court today, represented pro bono by Catherine Moodley of Shanta Reddy attorneys. The case was remanded until 28 February 2008.

Update, 30/11/2007: There was a reading from Philani Zungu's writing, an account of his work and various arrests and a discussion about his writing led by Nigel Gibson at the launch of the new issue of Socialism and Democracy at Harvard University, Boston, USA, today, 30 November 2007. Click here and here to see a few minutes of video footage of the Harvard event

Update: 15/11/2007 Click here to read 'Periferie in rivolta. Nelle baracche di Durban', a short article on Philani's arrest in the Italian Magazine Carta.

Update: 14:46, 14/11 Philani Zungu has just been released after 21 hours in custody. He was released on bail of R1000 and has to return to court on 11 December 2007. This time he was not assaulted. He was supported in court by a large group of Abahlali and represented pro bono by Catherine Moodley of Shanta Reddy's law firm. This brings the number of Bahlali currently out on bail and awaiting trial to 21. Click here to read 'Democracy in My Experience', the widely published article written by Philani after his previous arrest.

Update: 22:00 The protest outside the police station has been dispersed. Around 50 people marched onto the police station and demanded to be arrested and put in the cell with Philani on the grounds that 'if Philani is guilty then we are all guilty'. The police refused to arrest them and instead broke up the demonstration (but without the usual gratuitous violence – Nayager was not present). People are now making their way back to various settlements around Durban and Pinetown. According to the police Philani Zungu will appear in the Magistrate's Court in Pinetown tomorrow morning. Abahlali will be there. Philani is alone tonight but, like the Sydenham 14 in the Durban Magistrate's court this morning, he will be greeted by a sea of red when he steps into the dock tomorrow morning. Qina Umhlali!

21:00 Philani Zungu, Deputy President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, chairperson of the Pemary Ridge settlement and widely published and cited public intellectual, has been arrested by the notorious Sydenham police once again.

In September 2006 Philani was arrested together with Abahlali President S'bu Zikode on the entirely spurious charge of 'assaulting a police officer'. The arrest was explicitly aimed at preventing Zungu and Zikode from participating in a widely anticipated debate on iGagasi FM. That night both Zikode and Zungu were severely assaulted in the Sydenham Police station – both suffered injuries with permanent consequences. This assault is now the basis for a civil case against the Sydenham Police. Papers have been served on the Minister.

Philani was arrested again on Women's Day this year (August 9) after new shacks were built in the Pemary Ridge settlement to accommodate people illegally evicted from the Juba Place settlement in December 2006 and growing families in Pemary Ridge.

When a number of people were assaulted and 13 people suffered wrongful arrest at the hands of the Sydenham Police at a peaceful march on the mayor on 28 September 2007 Mnikelo Ndabankulu was arrested some hours after the march. It soon became clear that Supt. Glen Nayager had mistaken Ndabankulu for Zungu. While in custody he threatened Ndabankulu (calling him Philani) and warned him to drop the civil case.

Today Zungu has been arrested on a charge of illegally evicting electricity. Across Durban shack dwellers are connecting themselves to electricity. People are doing this because in 2001 the City decided to refuse to continue to electrify shack settlements. This has resulted in a plague of shack fires. Shack dwellers connect themselves to electricity because the city has failed them and condemned them to be relentlessly terrorized by avoidable fires. Therefore they have no choice but to act to make themselves safe.

Abahlali members are moving towards the Sydenham Police station from across the city right now (21:00). It is inevitable that, as usual, the Sydenham Police will unlawfully declare their protest to be illegal and attack it with violence (rubber bullets, tear gas, batons etc). Everyone knows this but they are coming any way because Zungu is not a criminal and a stand must and will be taken once more.

Fikile Nkosi is on the scene. She can be contacted on 0729629312. Fikile knows all about the Sydenham Police. She stood unmoving in the front when they invaded the Foreman Road settlement in November 2005 beating and shooting, even with pistols in some cases, as people fled. It was her mother that berated the City on the lead item on the E-TV news report that night. The New York Times reported that:

'in an interview that he cut short, a clearly nettled Mayor Mlaba argued that the protest had been the work of agitators bent on embarrassing him before local elections next year. "Of course it's political," he said. "All of a sudden, they've got leaders. There weren't any leaders yesterday. Are they going to be there in 2006 or 2007, after the elections?" '

Well 2007 is almost gone and Fikile is still here. Philani is still here. Abahlali are still here.