The Attack on the LPM Continues – 5 More Arrests in Protea South

Friday, 04 June 2010
Landless People’s Movement Press Statement

The Attack on the Landless People’s Movement Continues
Five More People have Been Arrested in Protea South

Last night the police went from door to door with an informer in the shacks of Protea South, Soweto. They arrested five members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM). Three of the people that they arrested are children of Maureen Mnisi, chairperson of the LPM in Gauteng. The other two are her neighbours.

Since the current wave of repression began when the LPM was attacked in Protea South by the Homeowners’ Association on 23 May 2010 two people have been killed. One was shot dead by the Homeowners’ Association in Protea South and one was shot dead by the police in eTwatwa. Other people have been beaten, shot, arrested and threatened with having their homes burnt down. Two people have had their homes burnt down in eTwatwa. There are now seven LPM members in jail in Protea South and thee LPM members in jail in eTwatwa.

The police have promised that they will make more arrests soon. They said that the five people arrested last night will be charged with burning the electricity transformer in Protea South. The transformer was burnt down on 23 May. On that night the wealthier residents of Protea South living in private bonded houses armed themselves and went around beating shack dwellers who had connected themselves to electricity and forcibly disconnecting them from electricity. They shot two people and one person died. They also tried to burn down Maureen Mnisi’s house. Her house was saved when LPM members defended it by erecting a burning barricade and throwing stones at the mob from the Homeowners’ Association. Some members of the community burnt down the electricity box to show the wealthier residents of Protea South that if they want to deny electricity to the poor then it will be denied to everyone. This is tactic of disconnecting the rich if they disconnect the poor (or ask the state to do it) has been used in Siyanda, Pemary Ridge and Motala Heights in Durban.

But the people that were arrested last night did not burn down the transformer in Protea South. They were busy defending Maureen Mnisi’s home that night. They did burn tyres there but to keep warm as they protected Maureen’s home. These arrests are clearly a strategy to make Maureen feel very strong pain so that her commitment to the struggle can be undermined. It is the most dirty tactic to punish a militant by arresting her children and her neighbours.

No one has been arrested for the attacks on LPM in Protea South. In eTwatwa the police stood by as the shacks of two LPM leaders were burnt down. Later they arrested one person but then they quickly released that person again. The police officer who shot dead the LPM militant in eTwatwa has not been arrested.

Liza Cossa, the chairperson of the LPM in Protea South, was told by the police that they are targeting Maureen Mnisi. She is now expecting that anything can happen. There is a long history of pressure on Maureen. In early 2009 the Homeowners’ Association signed a petition against her saying that she must be removed from the area because she was defending people from outside the country. Of course it is true that the LPM defends all people from evictions – South Africa belongs to all who live in it and we make no apology for this. The LPM are well aware that the local ANC councillor, Mapule Khumalo, is behind this. She has put Maureen under pressure to stop shack dwellers from appropriating electricity but Maureen has refused. Khumalo was twice seen with the people from the Homeowners’ Association after they tried to burn down Maureen’s home.

It is the same in eTwatwa where the ANC councillor, Cllr Baleka, is behind the attacks there.

With the exception of the Daily Sun the media has ignored these attacks on the LPM. The Daily Sun did cover the electricity war in Protea South but they only interviewed the Homeowners’ Association. They didn’t even speak to the LPM. Maureen phoned them to complain and a journalist called Issac promised to get back to her but he never did. This newspaper did the same thing when they covered the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban in September last year. This newspaper is treating shack dwellers as criminals and making propaganda for the rich and for the councillors.

As the LPM we want to send a clear message to the media that they have a duty to tell the truth about what is happening in our country. What is happening to us must not be swept under the carpet just so that the government can look good while the world is watching South Africa for the World Cup. The duty of the media to tell the truth remains while the World Cup is on. The media must come to Protea South and to eTwatwa and hear our story.

We are calling for urgent legal support. We need lawyers for the LPM members who are in jail. We need to take up cases against the Homeowners Association and the police to get justice for the two people who have been killed. We need money to pay bail.

This statement and its call for urgent solidarity with the LPM is supported by the Poor People’s Alliance which is made up of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Landless People’s Movement and the Rural Network. It is clear to all the organisations in the alliance that there is no democracy in South Africa. Every time that there is an election the poor are promised land, housing, water, electricity, toilets, education and jobs. After the elections we are denied these things. If we ask for the promises that have been made to us to be kept we are beaten, arrested and jailed. If we occupy land and appropriate water and electricity we are beaten, arrested and jailed. Sometimes we are tortured. Sometimes we are even killed.

We are calling on everyone who is visiting South Africa for the World Cup to visit us and to see how we have to live and to hear how we are oppressed. Visit us in the shacks, on the farms, in the transit camps and in the jails of this country.

For more information and comment please contact:

Maureen Mnisi, Chairperson of the LPM in Gauteng: 082 337 4514
David Mathontsi, Chairperson of the LPM in eTwatwa 073 914 9868.

For information and comment on the wider assault on the organised poor in South Africa please contact:

S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo (Durban): 083 547 0474
Mzonke Poni, Abahlali baseMjondolo (Cape Town): 073 25 62036
Rev. Mavuso, Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal): 072 279 2634
Ashraf Cassiem, Anti-Eviction Campaign (Cape Town): 076 186 1408

(Mzonke Poni has spent the last few days with the LPM in Protea South and can give also give a first hand account of recent events there.)