Category Archives: Ekhuruleni

Severe Police Assault, Evictions & an Arrest in Tembisa

Sunday, 5 August 2018
Phumula Mqashi Land Occupation Press Statement

Severe Police Assault, Evictions & an Arrest in Tembisa

This morning the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EMPD) returned to the Phumula Mqashi Land Occupation in Tembisa. They destroyed the people’s shacks and burnt their building materials, as well as their mattresses and clothes. They assaulted six people, men and women, pointed Lerato Ramorei with a gun and beat him severely. They then arrested Lerato. We are extremely concerned about his safety. Continue reading

Intimidation from Armed ANC Members on the East Rand

Monday, 23 July 2018
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement

Intimidation from Armed ANC Members on the East Rand

Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Good Hope Settlement in Germiston, on the East Rand, have been engaging around budgets and urban planning for a long time now. At the same time this branch has also organised the Zikode Extension Land Occupation on a nearby piece of unused land. Despite repeated illegal evictions, and the repeated confiscation and burning of building material, the occupation will soon celebrate its first three months on the land.

Promises have been regularly made, by the ruling party and various levels of government, that development is coming to Good Hope. But we do not see any allocation for us in the relevant budgets documents.  Continue reading

Makause: The activist’s fear of the police and the sunset

Makause: The activist’s fear of the police and the sunset

As you read this, General Alfred Moyo, an activist from Makause informal settlement, is hopefully still alive. He spends days in worry and nights in fear for his life. His harassers: the Primrose station police. His crime: standing up for Makause residents’ human rights. By MANDY DE WAAL.

General Alfred Moyo, a community activist from Makause in Primrose, Germiston, who was arrested by police on Friday 19 October 2012 and released on bail a day later, has fled the informal settlement. “I fear for my life. I don’t know what is going to happen. I am stressed and I am scared. I am uncomfortable during the day, but at night I just get scared.”

Moyo was arrested while holding a community meeting on an open sports field. “The police can do anything. They can even hire people inside the settlement to get rid of me. The community has seen everything and they can tell about everything that happened, so the only chance for the police now is to pay someone else to kill me.”

The “everything” happened on Friday afternoon, when Moyo was meeting with community members to discuss what to do when an on-again, off-again march to protest against Primrose police was cancelled a day after it had been approved.

The community has been trying since mid-September to gain permission from local authorities to march in protest against police brutality and the police’s alleged refusal to investigate residents’ cases, but have been thwarted at every turn. The march was given a verbal go-ahead by Metro police on 17 October, only to be banned by the Primrose police station the next day.

“Everyone had been mobilised and the pamphlets were distributed so we decided to have a mass meeting to address the community and discuss a way forward,” Moyo said, adding that the police arrived shortly afterward.

“We told the police we were discussing alternatives to the march and had decided to picket the station. But the police said we couldn’t have a picket there. They said the station was a sensitive area that they must protect it at all costs.” Moyo replied that he was well versed with section 17 of the Constitution and the right to picket or demonstrate.

He said police had been called in from as far as Springs and the surrounding catchment area to ensure the march did not go ahead. The Makause activist was then told to go with police to the station to talk to the station commander. Moyo and a handful of community leaders were negotiating with police when Nikki Pingo, a project manager for an NGO called Planact arrived on the scene. (Planact runs regular development, learning and support meetings for community representatives and civic movements.)

“General and a couple of others were speaking to the police. There were about three police vans parked at the edge of the sports field. Another police van arrived,” she said.

The police again told Moyo to go to the station to speak to the station commander, Lt-Col Thembi Nkhwashu.

Moyo and the Makause leaders were negotiating with police when an armoured police vehicle arrived. Law enforcement officers exited and pulled the community activist into the vehicle. The Makause members moved forward marginally, and Pingo said a policeman threatened the crowd. “The policemen pulled out a gun and pointed it at the crowd. He then threw teargas into the crowd and it dispersed.”

Earlier this month, Daily Maverick reported that the Makause community leader was verbally attacked and threatened by the police, who asked him why he wanted to bring the force into ill repute.

“The head of visible policing, Col Rackson Shuburi, asked us why we were applying to march against the police. ‘What is wrong with you that you want to challenge the code of conduct of the SAPS?’ he asked us. We told him our memorandum would list all our grievances,” Moyo said at the time. “Shuburi warned me that if we went ahead with the march there would be ‘another Marikana’. He was referring directly to the events at Marikana where the police shot and killed all those protesting miners. He said that the police were ready for us and that if we marched, Makause would be turned into another Marikana.”

The police drove away with Moyo in the Casspir. “We followed the police to the station to find out why General was taken, and when we got there General was taking off his belt, and said he had been arrested. The station commander was very angry with us and said we must leave the police station,” Pingo said, adding that she left the station to call the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (Seri), a non-profit rights-based organisation that has a public-interest law centre.

Moyo told Daily Maverick that when he arrived at the Primrose police station the station commander was in the boardroom with brigadiers and regional heads of police. He was called into the room. “I did not know the others. The only one I recognised was (Gauteng Provincial Commissioner Lt Gen Mzwandile) Petros.

“The station commander pointed to me and said: ‘This is the problematic General’. The police brigadiers said that the lady, the station commander, she must deal with me in her own way,” Moyo said. “I was then charged with intimidation because she said that I had intimidated her.”

A handful of people from Makause had gathered and were now standing outside the station. Nkhwashu picked out a young man and woman who were both wearing T-shirts in support of those slain in the Marikana massacre from the crowd. The T-shirts read: “Women demand justice for Marikana” and “Solidarity for the slain of Marikana”, as well as “An injury to one is an injury to all”.

“I went in to try and go to the bathroom to get water when I saw the two people were arrested,” Pingo said. The pair had been stripped of their Marikana T-shirts and forced to stand half naked in the station. As one, a shy woman, tried to cover her torso with a blanket, a policeman at the Primrose police station was alleged to have chipped in: “I don’t know why that woman is acting so shy. It is in our culture, it is natural to show breasts.”

Pingo challenged the station commander, asking why the pair had been arrested and exclaimed it was unacceptable that the young woman had been made to stand exposed. “She (Nkhwashu) told me to get out of the police station,” said Pingo.

There was another brief exchange in which Nkhwashu threatened to arrest Pingo, who then tried to run out the station. As Pingo exited the station, Nkhwashu ordered that she be arrested.

The police took the Marikana T-shirts saying that these would form evidence for a charge of incitement to cause violence. “They took my phones, my camera and my memory stick,” said Moyo. “They said they will make sure they will bring charges against me because they are in power. They can implicate me with anything to ensure I don’t get out and that I don’t even get bail”

As the charge sheets were being filled out Moyo said police listed his address as “no fixed address” and declared that he had no relatives so that he and the other Makause residents wouldn’t get bail.

Moyo, Pingo and the two other Makause residents were detained overnight because police said they couldn’t get a public prosecutor out on a Friday night. Charges levelled against the four include harassment, intimidation, malicious damage to property, resisting arrest and obstructing the police.

Seri obtained expert legal assistance, and the next day the four were released on bail of R1,000 each. “The police told the lawyer that we were all charged with public violence because this charge requires a prosecutor to get bail. With the other charges they wouldn’t need a public prosecutor, and so we had to stay overnight, ” says General.

The four appeared in the Germiston magistrates’ court on 22 October and waited some three hours for the dockets to be brought from the Primrose police station. After a short hearing, the case was postponed until 19 November.

“The charges are baseless, there is no evidence and it is shocking that the prosecutor is allowing police to go ahead with an investigation into these charges,” said Kate Tissington, a senior research and advocacy officer at Seri. “We’ve seen this before with activists. It is a common police tactic to try and crush activists, to tie them up in the legal system. To beat the fight out of them. The other thing is who can pay bail? So people just sit.”

Moyo is out, but no longer sleeps in the community at night because he fears for his life. His life now is about trying to find a place to stay while shuffling back and forth to try and support the community at Makause.

Daily Maverick called Nkhwashu, but she refused to speak to the media and referred the story to an SAPS spokesperson. The spokesperson, Col Mogale, said questions must be submitted by email and that it would take 24 hours to respond, outside of Daily Maverick’s deadline.

Daily Maverick: In the wake of the Makause shack fire, the destitute and forgotten

In the wake of the Makause shack fire, the destitute and forgotten

A compact informal settlement in Primrose, Germiston, Makause houses the poorest of the poor and unemployed, who have nowhere else to go. Their living conditions are desperate, but became more so when a woman poured petrol over herself and set her body aflame. The blaze raged through 18 dwellings, taking what little the people there had. Insult was added to injury by the way Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality responded to the disaster. By MANDY DE WAAL.

The two voices were raised so loudly on the morning of Saturday 13 October that everyone nearby in the informal settlement could hear the screaming. But overhearing the argument wasn’t difficult; in Makause settlement in Primrose, Germiston the shacks are wedged right up against each other. Space is at such premium there that you can’t even slide a hand between most dwellings.

The man had had enough. He packed his bag and walked out the shack, leaving the woman behind. She was hysterical and dragged a generator into her home. She had a lighter, and – it appeared to onlookers – she wanted to use it.

“When the man left, the lady started to show signs of trying to commit suicide. She took a generator and a cigarette lighter to set the shack alight,” eyewitness Eric Ndlovu told Daily Maverick at the scene. The subsequent shack fire razed 18 dwellings, leaving about as many families homeless.

“Some men came and tried to stop the lady from doing that, but the lady found a way of sending them away.” She asked the men to buy her airtime from the tuck shop in the settlement so that she could talk to her family. “That is when she got the chance to use the petrol in the generator and start the fire,” Ndlovu said.

The men came back to hear agonised screams coming from inside the shack. “The fire had already started and nobody could risk going inside to extinguish the fire. Even I tried but it was a no go. It was too dangerous,” he said.

Ndlovu described a blaze that was consuming shacks in minutes. “They caught fire so quickly, and just spread. You know petrol… when you extinguish it with water then you spread it around. People didn’t have enough water, or enough assistance in terms of extinguishing the fire.”

Watch: General Alfred Moyo speaks at the scene of Saturday’s shack fire about the government’s failure to supply adequate aid.

The community told Daily Maverick that the fire engine – situated across the road from the settlement – took twenty minutes to reach the scene of the unfolding disaster. When it did, they say it arrived with only a few litres of water. “After ten minutes they had run out of water and the fire still continued. It was really difficult, really terrible,” Ndlovu added.

When Daily Maverick phoned the local municipality to find out why there’d been such an inadequate response, Ekurhuleni Disaster and Emergency Management spokesperson William Ntladi said the claim that the fire engine didn’t have enough water was nonsense.

“It is not that we didn’t have enough water. The informal settlement… well, we know how clustered it is. The heavy vehicle couldn’t go deep inside, so we had to send a small vehicle and relay the water into the smaller vehicle to reach the fire. The streets in between the shacks are very narrow and don’t accommodate the bigger vehicle,” Ntladi explained.

This journalist explained to Ntladi that she stood at the scene of the fire and that the area was alongside the tar road, and nowhere near the inner locale of the settlement. “I was off duty, I just heard about it,” Ntladi confessed and referred the query to Rogers Mamaila, also with Ekurhuleni emergency services.

Mamaila said the fire engines carry 4,000 litres on board, which get discharged at 400 litres per minute. “It is not an endless supply. The supply is only for one delivery, and it depends on the crew to see how many deliveries are required.

“That informal settlement may not have fire hydrants to replenish the trucks,” he said, adding that when the emergency services arrived the eighteen shacks had already been burnt, but that the crew managed to save the others.

“Ekhuruleni have trained CERT (Community Emergency Response) members, who are trained to deal with own fires prior to our arrival. We went into that same informal settlement house-to-house and educated people on how to prevent fires. A month ago a man died in that same informal settlement and they blamed us for not responding quickly enough. We have said they must walk or run to us, and in the meantime make use of the CERT members who are trained on advanced fire fighting. There are four CERTs in attendance there,” said Mamaila.

Makause is a compact settlement that the local government says is home to close on 30,000 people. “From the municipality’s side we have done everything we could have done. The method in which those people have built that informal settlement is wrong. When they build shacks they must leave a space of between five to six metres but they say there is no space,” Mamaila said, and explained that it was the compact nature of the informal settlement that made the outbreak of fires such a disaster.

For twelve-year-old Mahlatse Tomolo, the explanations were academic. All she cared about was the fact that she had no uniform to wear to school and had lost all her books to the fire. “I came back at four or five in the afternoon and I saw the ambulance and the people who work with the fire. Everything was burnt. My clothing… my school uniform… everything was gone. All I have left with is the clothes I have on. Even my school books are burnt. I feel bad because we have nowhere to go to. This is my home. We need help to rebuild our shack,” the young girl said.

Sipho Mashala was out of his home in the late afternoon when the fire broke out, but was heading back home to cook food when he overheard people speaking about the fire. “I never believed what they said, but when I got here I saw it, and seeing is believing. My shack was on fire. My matric certificate, my ID – everything was gone. All I have is these clothes. Actually I am devastated. I don’t know what to do.”

Formerly from Bushbuckridge in Limpopo, Mashala came to Gauteng to find work. “I am going to have to go home and go back to the drawing board. I am not a criminal and I won’t resort to crime, so I will have to go back as soon as I have money. But now that my certificate is burnt, I am going to have to start from scratch. I am a married man and have a child to support. I am devastated.”

Rector Shabangu was sleeping when the blaze threatened his shack in the late afternoon. “My wife, she woke me up saying: ‘Man, come on. Wake up. There is a fire coming.’ I said: ‘Man. Hayi. Fokkof.’ I thought she was just playing, but she forced me to wake up.”

“When I woke up I found… well… it was terrible. I took some buckets of water and poured on the other side of my room so that it doesn’t go further. I climbed on top of the roof and those people who used to assist us they came. They gave me the pipe with the water and I used it to stop the fire,” the unemployed shack dweller said.

“When I was busy doing that I saw something like meat. I said what kind of meat is this? When I tried to go this side I saw a hand. Then I jumped away from that roof. I was afraid. I was shocked. It was so terrible. In my shack I had clothes, my bed, a fridge, and a cupboard. I have no means to replace this.”

Shabangu said the local government promised to help but little assistance was rendered by the time Daily Maverick was on the scene, two days after the fire. “Since they promised (local government) – they are still promising but nothing happened. I am sleeping around here on the ground,” he said, pointing to blackened ground adjacent a rubbish dump where people forage for plastic bottles, glass and scrap tin to sell.

“We have to make fire and sleep near the fire. It has been cold and I just hold my child in my arms. We have no place to sleep so this is what I must do,” Shabangu said, shaking his head while his wife scoured through the debris with her two-year-old child tied to her back. Shabangu has two children.

These people, who are in a desperate predicament, told Daily Maverick that all they’d received from local government was one blanket per family as a means of disaster relief. Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality’s Aubrey Mokgosi points fingers at “outsourced suppliers” for the delay.

“I heard about this fire only last night (Sunday) about midnight and only this morning we asked our service provider to go and do a survey and give us a quotation. We have now asked our service provider to help with rebuilding the shacks. I am not too sure if they have been on site or are preparing to do so,” Mokgosi said.

When asked who the service provider was, Mokgosi said they were the ‘Red Ants’ – which is an awful irony. Private security guards who got their name because of the bright red overalls they wear, the ‘Red Ants’ are notorious in Gauteng because of the brutal way they evict tenants and demolish shacks. They are often used by local government who don’t want to lose votes, and are especially feared in Johannesburg’s inner city where they evict the poor with impunity.

“The government seems to be promising but it doesn’t provide us. You must vote for the government but then the government doesn’t assist us. I told myself: ‘Why should I have to vote?’ I do vote but get nothing,” said a dejected Shabangu, who faces another night of sleeping in the dirt with his baby girl in his arms, his wife and other child huddled around a fire in a sprawling settlement that is not without criminal elements.

“The government is just working for its own benefit, so it is better that I just leave voting. I don’t see what the ANC is doing. Those people are just working for their own pockets.”

Shabangu’s voice is not alone, either – it is the voice of the everyman and -woman, of people in poverty who expected democracy to bring a better life, but now eat only bitter disappointment.