Category Archives: Kennedy Five

The Kennedy Five Released on Bail

There was joy and jubilation at the Durban Magistrates’ court on 12 July as the Kennedy 5 who had been in custody since their arrest in September 2009 were finally granted bail.

After a two-hour closed door meeting between the state and the defence team, it was agreed that the five be granted R1 000 bail each.

The five appeared visibly relieved after more than ten months of incarceration.

Samkelisa Mkhokhelwa could not hide his joy on his walk to freedom as he said, “There is every reason to be jubilant as this is our moment of victory. However, the battle is not yet over. We are waiting for the end of the trial for our names to be cleared. We have always maintained that we are innocent of all these charges.”

S’bu Zikode, President of Abahlali baseMjondolo, said their eyes are now fixed on the dropping of all the charges against the twelve. “Although this is a partial victory for us”, he said, “we want to see all the charges against these innocent people dropped, as we have always maintained that this case is politically motivated.”

Earlier on, the accused had not been brought to court because of logistical problems on the part of prison officials.

Only three out of twenty state witnesses appeared in court prompting the magistrate, Sharon Marks, to say that she would issue a warrant of arrest should the witnesses fail to come to court when the trial begins on 29 November.

Meanwhile, most of the bail conditions of all the twelve accused were removed except that they should not visit Kennedy Road or interfere with state witnesses before the end of the trial.

Hunger Strike Ends with Release from Prison at the Cost of Massive Bail and a Banning Order

Click here for photo essay.

The court was flooded with supporters including a Bishop, a monk and a priest – not the usual company of what the prosecutor had called 'dangerous criminals' last time (meaning, of course, 'dangerous [poor] criminals' rather than habitual law breakers like Sutcliffe, Nayger and co.) which really helps to get more people to take a second look at Nayager's lies.

There were even more people there than when Nayager had arrested and beaten S'bu Zikode and Philani Zungu on trumped up and soon dropped charges in September last year. The I.O. had been pushing a hard no bail line until yesterday but the pressure from the protests, the media, the church support and the red river running through the corridors of the court clearly started to tell. By 10 this morning they were ready to make a deal and Mark Serfontein, the pro bono lawyer, and S'bu Zikode negotiated with the prosecutor moving up and down from the court to the holding cells below.

Obviously Abahlali couldn't bargain too hard given that it was day 12 of the hunger strike and that the Kennedy 5 were determined to continue with the hunger strike until their release or their death. In the end the deal was that they won bail at a steep price part of which is that they do not step foot in Kennedy Road until the trial is concluded. Abahlali had been advised that bail wouldn't be higher than R2 000 a person and would be likely to be very much less given that none of the accused have formal employment. On this basis they had managed to collect R10 000. But bail was set at R5 000 per person and so another R15 000 had to be found very quickly. There was an outbreak of gracious generosity and a plan was quickly made. The prosecutor claimed that she had information from the I.O. (and Nayager openly boasts that the I.O. takes instructions from him) that the 5 were planning to intimidate the witnesses and that therefore they couldn't return to their homes or their community. This is ludicrous. For a start they are so weak following the hunger strike that 3 of the 5 can only stand for a minute or two and secondly the key witnesses is an armed and dangerous criminal under the personal protection of a rampantly criminal police officer and the other witness is the father-in-law of that criminal's best friend. Suddenly a dangerous criminal is a vulnerable man who requires draconian state protection to the degree that a large part of the democratically elected leadership of the settlement must leave their homes and their community.

The Kennedy 5 have to now move to rural homesteads and report to police stations in these rural areas every week. This is a de facto banning order. Nayager always promised in his racist echo of Verwoed to 'make the red shirts go back where they came from' and so he has now got his wish with regard to most of the Kennedy Road leadership. Obviously the political consequences of this de facto apartheid style banning order will be severe for Kennedy Road. They will also be severe for the families of the 5 accused. All 5 have no informal employment and make a precarious living from work done in the settlement, selling vegetables, working as a taxi rank conductor etc. So as well as being forced out of their communities and being forced out of political involvement they have also been forced out of their livelihoods. And they, and their families, and their community, and their movement suffer all of this on the basis of allegations that have not been tested in court, which will clearly not stand up in a trial and which are levelled by a police officer with a history of blatantly criminal behaviour towards shack dwellers in general and Abahlali in particular and who, without shame, has made the political nature of this case absolutely explicit.

M'du Ngqulunga came up the stairs into the dock first with a clenched raised fist and wearing his red t-shirt. He was the largest man going in and doesn't look too bad now but the other 4 were shockingly wasted away. Three can no longer really stand. The 5 were welcomed as heroes. They were too weak for the rushing out of court on the shoulders of their comrades that we have become used too. This was a more gentle reception for more fragile bodies.

The hunger strike is now over. The prisoners have been released and are now in hospital. The release and the end of the hunger strike is a victory which is and will continue to be celebrated as such. There may an arduous and expensive trial ahead but no court will be able to convict them of this charge when more than 50 people saw what actually happened so they will not return to prison. But the struggle against the ongoing attempt of a blatantly criminal local state to criminalise the legal and democratic expression of dissent seems to just be beginning.

This is now a national story. There are good article's in this morning's Citizen and Mail & Guardian. And iGagasi FM have been covering the story on the hour since 6 a.m.

To offer support to the families please visit the 'Support' page via the link on the top right hand corner on this website.

Update:6:50 p.m. Bishop Reuben Phillip has just arrived to visit the Kennedy 5 in McCords Hospital.