Cape Town: Anti-War coordinator arrested at anti-xenophobia vigil

23 May 2008

Anti-War coordinator arrested at anti-xenophobia vigil

CAPE TOWN – Some very disturbing events have unfolded in Central Cape Town this evening. A peaceful vigil was held in front of Parliament from 5pm onwards. The Cape Town Anti-War Coalition, Zille Raine Heights community, Cape Town Action Forum against High Prices, ILRIG, student groups and refugee organisations participated in relatively small numbers. We were shocked to see six police cars and vans at our protest. We would have thought that the police would have been very busy clamping down on xenophobic attacks around the city. It was also disturbing to see a number of what appeared to be National Intelligence Agency personnel at the march, monitoring the speeches closely.

Several speakers spoke out against xenophobia. Immediately after the speeches finished, at about 7pm, protestors started dispersing. The police moved in on Shaheed Mahomed of the Cape Town Anti-War Coalition, arresting him alone. The rest of the protestors then went to Cape Town police station. The police denied for about 2 hours that Mahomed had been detained. It was only after PASSOP refugee organisation located an advocate to assist that the police admitted that Mahomed was in custody.

It is very strange that activists connected to the anti-xenophobia or refugee rights issues, face regular arrest. Braam Hanekom from PASSOP has been arrested about 4 times in the last few months and has also been the only person targetted each time. It seems that the state has a very low tolerance level for any critique that links xenopobia with capitalist oppression, and that blames the state for the problems refugees find themselves in.

It was also disturbing to see that a few hundred refugees had also made their way to the police station, seeking refuge, but being left to sleep outside on the pavement. They are in urgent need of blankets, food and nappies and baby formula. The refugees say they have either been attacked or threatened today. The TAC was there trying to arrange alternative accommodation.