Charges Against Bheki Buthelezi Withdrawn & the Zakheleni 18 Released

25 June 2012
Abahlali baseMjondolo & Unemployed People's Movement Press Statement

Charges Against Bheki Buthelezi Withdrawn & the Zakheleni 18 Released

Today all charges against Bheki Buthelezi were dropped and the Zakheleni 18 were released on free bail at the Umlazi Magistrate's Court. It is clear that the arrest of the 18 was politically engineered. The arrestees clearly stated in court that they don’t know the reason why they were arrested. As the magistrate asked them why they were arrested they said they had no idea and that they were just having drinks with friends on a Saturday evening when the police simply came and arrested them. The 18 were released on free bail with the understanding that the police have no evidence against any of the accused, that they were not involved in any violence and they are all poor and unemployed.

However surprisingly only 14 of the 18 left were freed through the front door. The other 4 were presumably freed through the back door. The reason for this remains a big question and there is suspicion that there may be an attempt to divide the 18 and to use some to fabricate evidence against the innocent. The fabrication of false evidence against activists has happened to activists before (e.g. like happened to the Kennedy 13).

The Ward 88 community is under threat for fighting for their rights and speaking the truth. Today the supporters of the councillor, Nomzamo Mkhize, openly intimidated and threatened people from the community in front of the police. This raises a question of why they were not arrested because Bheki was arrested for intimidation with no evidence and no witness. However today the police did not take action at the court and instead they just observed what was happening as supporters of the Zakheleni 18 were being openly threatened. Some members of the Ward 88 community now fear to go back to their homes as they were told that they be killed, and this was all in front of police.

Furthermore xenophobic and racist statements were made by the ANC supporters at the court. They said that the comrades who were there in solidarity with the Zakheleni 18 had been bussed in from Uganda and Emhlabeni areas and that there are people born in other countries (they used insulting language) in our movements. There were also racist utterances made against our comrades from Wentworth and Clairwood and even newspaper photographers. It was said that there are poor Indians in our movements (again they used insulting language). The Ward 88 community however believes that these are just a few ANC loyalists who are closely linked to the councillor and are trying to create division in the community and in the struggles of the poor.

Our movements welcome all poor people without regard to where they were born or what race they come from as long as they are willing to struggle together with us for their own freedom. Our movements work with all people that stand for a world in which everyone counts the same and are willing to become comrades in the struggle for justice. We will never deviate from these principles. However we note that ethnic and racist language was also used by the ANC against Abahlali baseMjondolo when the movement was repressed in 2009. This language is dangerous.

The matter of the 18 was adjourned to the 16th of July at 8:30 in R court.

We welcome the solidarity from all the organisations that were present at the Umlazi police station on Saturday and at the Magistrate's Court today. We call on all progressive organisations to support the community of ward 88 in their fight to be recognised and for justice.

The comrades from Ward 88 members said they have had enough of the struggle of the poor being politicized into ANC games and that it is high time that we unite for justice and peace. We have lived years in poverty, silenced by intimidation and the law. We will use our power outside the court for our voices to be heard. It’s time that the government takes the people seriously.

Finally Bheki has approached the state prosecutor and they have returned his docket back to the police station. The prosecutor was not satisfied with the docket because there was no evidence against him and so his case was struck off the role. However the prosecutor said that if police do find some evidence against Bheki they will submit his docket back to court and issue a summons for his arrest. The prosecutor has ordered Bheki to return his bail slip so that the police can refund him. This process was an attempt to lock Bheki, silence the community and sabotage the plans to occupy the Municipal Offices.

For more information please contact the following:

Bheki Buthelezi: Unemployed People's Movement 072 639 9893
Desmond D'sa: South Durban Community Environmental Alliance 083 982 6939
Ayanda Kota: Unemployed People's Movement Spokesperson 078 625 6462
Bandile Mdlalose: Abahlali baseMjondolo General Secretary 071 424 2815
Mnikelo Ndabankulu: Abahlali baseMjondolo Spokesperson – 081 309 5485
China Ngubane: R2K 072 651 9790