Category Archives: M’du Hlongwa

Most of Kennedy Road Committee Under Arrest – March on Sydenham Police Station Now

Wednesday, 21 March 2007, Human Rights Day
12:47:02

Most of the Kennedy Road Development Committee Spend Human Rights Day Being Assaulted in the Sydenham Police Station

Kennedy Road and Other Settlements Are Currently Mobilising to March on the Sydenham Police Station

*******updates are being added below as they come in*******

At 3:00 a.m. this morning 9 residents of the Kennedy Road shack settlement were arrested by the notoriously racist and violent Sydenham Police who have not been shy to make very clear the overtly political nature of their sustained violent persecution of Abahlali activists. At 11:00 a.m. this morning two of the nine, Sindi Maluleka and Zonke Mxele, were released. They reported that they had been punched and subject to verbal abuse that specifically targeted their membership of the ‘red shirts’ i.e. the shack dwellers’ movement Abahlali baseMjondolo. They also reported that on their release they had been told that they would be re-arrested if they did not swiftly contact Detective Inspector Luthuli on 073 232 0022 to inform him of the whereabouts of another 10 Kennedy Road residents, all of whom who have leadership positions in the community, who are being sought by the Sydenham Police.

The arrests follow the citizen’s arrest, and later death in detention at the Sydenham police station, of a man alleged to be responsible for an act of violent criminality. On Thursday 15 February 2007, Thina Khanyile, a Comrades Marathon runner, was out on a training run. He was attacked and stabbed by a man who was not known to him under the bridge that crosses Umgeni Road near the bottom of Kennedy Road. While he lay bleeding on the pavement his assailant robbed him of his running shoes. Luckily for Khanyile another resident of Kennedy Road, working as a truck driver, passed him soon after the attack and quickly took a detour from his work route to take him up Kennedy Road to the community hall in the settlement where the Kennedy Road Development Committee gave him first aid and was able to call an ambulance. Despite the massive bleeding Khanyile survived the attack.

On the following Sunday, 18 February 2007, Tsepo Buthelezi sought out the Kennedy Road Development Committee to tell them that a friend of his who was visiting him from Ntuzuma was Khanyile’s attacker. He found some members of the committee standing around a braai with many other residents of the settlement. The man from Ntuzuma was restrained and Khanyile was called to identify him. He immediately identified him as his attacker. At this point the police were called to come and arrest the man. While waiting for the police emotions ran high and the man was punched by a number of people for a short while before others stopped the beating. When the police arrested the suspect he did not appear to be in a bad condition. He was conscious, lucid and there was no major bleeding. In fact he walked to the police van and climbed into it himself. The gathered crowd saw that the police kicked him and punched him as he was climbing into the van. It is true that Khanyile’s attacker was assaulted in Kennedy Road but he was also being assaulted by the police at the very moment when he was handed over to the police. However when the Sydenham police swooped on the Kennedy Road settlement this morning they told the people that they were arresting that the suspect had died in their custody a week after the arrest.

At this point four important points need to be noted:

1. The Sydenham Police are notorious for their habitual, illegal and often highly racialised and highly politicised use of violence in and out of their station. Numerous complaints have been laid against them for assault and there is now, despite Glen Nayagar’s (the Superintendent) regular intimidation of journalists and confiscation of photographic evidence of police violence, considerable video and photographic evidence of the endemic violent criminality in the Sydenham Police station. S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu, President and Deputy President of Abahlali, are currently preparing to take the Sydenham Police in general and Nayager in particular to court for the violent assault that they suffered in the cells on 12 September last year after they were, like around 160 others in the last two years, arrested in ludicrous trumped up charges (not one of these arrests has ever resulted in a trial let alone an conviction – but they have resulted in plenty of, often highly racialised, police beatings). The Mercury newspaper has also laid formal complaints against Glen Nayager for threatening a journalist with violence if he reported on the violence that he had seen. The violence of the Sydenham Police station has often made international news and has been covered in publications like The New York Times and the Economist. Given this history it is very possible that they were the ones who assaulted the suspect so badly that he died.

2. The Sydenham Police have often denied people medical attention while in their custody even when people obviously have serious wounds (wounds, in previous cases, inflicted by the Sydenham Police). Given this well documented history it is very possible that they were guilty of gross negligence and once again failed to allow someone in their custody to seek medical attention.

3. Tsepo Buthelezi is well known as the most dangerous criminal living in the area. He is armed and has a history of violence and is widely feared in the settlement. However despite numerous arrests for serious offences, including, house breaking and car hijacking, he is always swiftly let out of custody and charges are always dropped after his many arrests and he is often seen in the company of the Sydenham Police. Many people are convinced that he is working as a police informer in exchange for these favours from the police. Given the now long history of serious political repression against the Kennedy Road Development Committee and Abahlali by the Sydenham Police, including systematic violence and illegality on the part of the police, it is very possible that they have seized an opportunity to use their informer to settle their scores with the Kennedy Road Development Committee.

4. The people who have been arrested, and the ten others on the list to still be arrested, are all people who play active leadership roles in the community and are all in the Kennedy Road Development Committee. It is true that some of them where there when Khanyile’s assailant was identified, restrained, briefly assaulted and handed over to the police but most were not and some of those who were there were the very people seeking to have the suspect swiftly handed over to the police and the very people that stopped the beating of the suspect. One of the arrested men is so sick that he hadn’t left his shack for months until he was pulled out of it at 3:00 this morning. None of the ordinary community members who were there have been arrested. Furthermore the two people who were released this morning under instruction to inform on the whereabouts of the ten people now being sought by the police were absolutely clear that while being assaulted they were subject to political abuse – they have no doubt whatsoever that the death in detention of Khanyile’s assailant is being misused to criminalise and attack the entire leadership of the Kennedy Road settlement.

A mass meeting was held in the Kennedy Road hall from 11:30 to 12:30 at which the two people released this morning, Sindi Maluleka and Zonke Mxele, spoke. It has been decided to march on the Sydenham Police station in protest. People are currently arriving from other settlements across Durban and Pinetown to join this march. This march will be legal – the Regulations of Gatherings Act of 1993 does in fact allow for emergency marches of this nature. But the police will, no doubt, declare it illegal and attack the marchers without warning as they did on 12 September 2006 when people marched on the Sydenham Police station to protest against the arrest of Abahlali President, S’bu Zikode, and Deputy President, Philani Zungu, while on the way to an interview on iGagasi FM. That day they used live ammunition against marchers resulting in major injuries. It was just sheer good luck that no one was killed. The Mail & Guardian reported that:

“The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) criticised police conduct in both Kennedy Road and at the Sydenham station, saying it constituted “illegal repressive behaviour”, which “prevented citizens from exercising their constitutional right to gather, associate and freely express themselves” and violated the Regulation of Gathering Act. The FXI added that the action of the police “as if they are above the law, is an extremely disturbing trend of late in all parts of South Africa”.

People from Kennedy Road also tried to march on the Sydenham Police station on Human Rights Day 2005, exactly two years ago, after 14 people, including two children, had been arrested during a protest on Umgeni Road two days before. That day they were also assaulted, tear gassed, bitten by dogs and racially abused. The 14, including the two children, were later detained in Westville prison for 10 days before, as usual, the charges were dropped. Is this what Human Rights Day has come to in Durban – i.e. that the Sydenham Police spend the day attacking unarmed people in the streets?

For updates and more information please contact:

Mondli Mbiko 07331936319
Anton Zamisa 0793801759
S’bu Zikode 0835470474

Please also see the following important articles about policing by Abahlali members. S’bu Zikode’s important article also addresses the dangers of the vigilantism that flows from the police seeing all poor people as criminals rather than citizens requiring the protection of the police and the consequent breakdown in trust between poor communities and the police.

Make Crime History by S’bu Zikode

Make Crime History

The Strong Poor and the Police by Philani Zungu http://abahlali.org//////node/549

Police Brutality by System Cele

Police Brutality

Fucker Stole My Camera and Shot My Mates by Raj Patel
http://www.voiceoftheturtle.org/raj/blog/2005/11/fucker-stole-my-camera-and-shot-my.html

The following newspaper articles are also useful at this time:

‘I Was Punched & Beaten’, Mail & Guardian

‘I was punched, beaten’

Democracy Took a Beating in Foreman Road, Mercury

Democracy took a beating in Foreman Road

Democracy Takes a Beating in Durban, Sunday Tribune

Democracy Takes a Beating in Durban

It is also very instructive to see how the Sydenham Police present shackdwellers on their website
http://www.sydenhamcpf.org.za/SAPS/SAPSRaid20050729.pdf

The names of the people still in custody are:

1. Cosmos Nkwanyana
2. S’thembiso Bhengu
3. Delisile Gwala
4. S’bongiseni Gwala
5. Dumezweni Cibane
6. Ngezo Mzimela
7. Thina Khanyile

They are all members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee except Khanyile who is the man who was stabbed and almost died on 15 February while training for the Comrades Marathon.

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UPDATES BELOW

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From Richard Pithouse:

we all know the script. people came from shack settlements all over durban and pinetown in support. they blocked the road outside the settlement with uncollected bagged refuse. they didn’t threaten or hurt anyone. they just blocked the way. 8 vans from the sydenham police station arrived. there was no warning to disperse or discussion. their opening move was rubber bullets. at least this time they didn’t use any live ammunition although there was plenty of waving sub-machines gun around.

what we need to think about more seriously though is how radically racialised it all is. we can talk about the world bank and the market and everything we say might be true. but when it comes to a situation like this race is a visceral reality.

i arrived back at the settlement with two bahlali, middle aged women to whom i was giving a lift back from the police station, minutes or perhaps even seconds after the police broke up the road blockade. the police are overwhelmingly indian. the shack dwellers, there, although not every where in durban, are all african. i was the only white person there. the initial response of the police was to wave me through. when the abahlali women got out of the car a police officer opened the back door and then locked it for me and warned me to ‘be careful in this place’ before closing it. they clearly assumed that i was dropping off my workers. they clearly assumed that i was a person who was worthy of their protection. class doesn’t explain these assumptions. although i was the only white person on the scene i wasn’t the only middle class person there. a group of african people from a church had the misfortune to arrive at kennedy road, from behind the raod blockade, to give out food parcels just before the police arrived. they were standing there, in yellow t-shirts holding a huge wooden cross, when the police came. they just stood there, understandably bewildered, when the rubber bullets were fired. two van loads of people, 17 in all, were arrested. as far as we know 16 were from the church and only one was a kennedy road resident. a young teenage church girl in her model C school tracksuit top tried to point this out, she got, casually, pepper sprayed in the face at point blank range. of course the police changed their attitude to me once they recognised me but the indisputable fact is that in a situation like today, a situation where the ‘normal’ order of things and people is temporarily upset, their initial assumption is that their job is to help white people and casually assault african people.

but the notorious glen nayager, the man who has singlehandedly made it impossible for shack dwellers in clare estate and reservoir hills to have any hope that the local police will see them as anything other than criminal, is not just a racist. he is genuine sadist taking pleasure from inflicting pain. when the police wanted everyone to leave the open area in the settlement near the road and go back to their shacks a girl, maybe about 15 or perhaps 16, who was at a sweets and cigarettes stall hesitated for a moment obviously worried about leaving the goods. her hesitation was marked on her face as a flash of fear, not defiance. nayager himself, with his machine gun dangling in his left hand, whipped out his spray with his right hand, got her right in the face, and punched her on the chest with the back of his fist knocking her down the stairs. his smile was probably the same smile that we’ll see in the photographs that he had his colleagues take when he beat philani zungu unconscious in his station late last year. and we may get to see those photographs. because as bad as the sydenham police under nayager are they are not all the same. there are officers, indian and african, who are sickened and looking for support.

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From Sindy Mkhize:

Hi all

People are not released yet they’ charged of muder

Yesterday Zama & Lungie went to police with the small kids for Delisile

They could ‘ allow them to leave the kids

We think they we appear in court on Friday /on Monday

Thanks

Sindy

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From Andile Mngxitama:

Well im not surprised by the “murder” charge. Perhaps, abahlali need to be made aware of how the LPM Gauteng chapter (this has similar characteristics with Abahlali- it’s an urban squatter community based), was basically judicially terrorised into disarray, after a long and consisted legalised attack on the movement. Some of the examples of how the state used judicial means to demoralise the movement were:

1. the whole Protea South youth leadership was charged with murder (this was the most vibrant youth chapter in the LPM in Gauteng). They were thrown in jail for more than three months – bail was high – only to be acquitted by the high court (think about the stress, resources etc which comes with this kind of pressure).
2. the Eikehoff youth leadership was not so lucky, some are serving long sentences.
3. the Democracy 52 were on trial for more than 2 years. Every month or so we had to appear in court, the possibility of a five years jail sentence hang above the heads of activists like a sword (the resources needed -financial, legal, emotional etc – was a real big factor). The message sent to surrounding communities was clear – if you join that movement you will end up in jail (the transcript of the court hearings make clear how far the collusion between the police and the judiciary can go in asserting the “rule of law” against the poor). But the charges could not stick and the magistrate made many mistakes as she tried to help the prosecuting side. For my part the racism of the whole thing was shocking.

What’s important about a murder charge is that: you can not get bail easily. And then when you get it its set very high (the poor can’t afford this). The basic idea is to keep un-sentenced trouble-makers in jail for as long as it’s possible.

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From Jacques Depelchin:

Dear All, Richard,

Thank you for sharing the update. And what should be the reaction of someone reading this from thousands of mile away? Outrage, but then what? This reads very much like a report from Haiti, but it could also be from Nairobi or some favela in Brazil. Now that they are reinventing poverty through poverty studies, shouldn’t places like Abalhali baseMondjolo produce texts for students who shall be taking these courses at places like UC Berkeley and Stanford University. Is it possible that one could see the emergence of solidarity, full stop, not solidarity studies? What would it take? Every single one of you out there could be a teacher.

I am writing this as a member of Ota Benga Alliance for peace, healing and dignity, but also as a person looking for ways to link up arms, beyond words, beyond sentiments, with those who are treated worse than trash.

If there are members of the police station who are sickened why do they not connect with the residents? Shall there be demonstrations, common demonstrations in front of South African embassies or consulates? Are there fax numbers, addresses, say of the policy station. Anything through which people down there shall be able to see that Abalhali is not just a geographical location, but people being trampled upon, being beaten up, being killed simply for being poor and affirming their oneness with humanity.

Do take care, Jacques

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Reply to Jacques from Richard

Dear Jacques and others

The contact details for the Sydenham Police station are as follows:

SAPS PRO at the Sydenhan Station

Captain Myentheran Lazarus: phone (27) (31) 203-2711

Station Manager at the Sydenham Station

Superintendent Glen Nayager: (27) (31) 203-2709

Station Fax Number at the Sydenham Station

Station Facsimile Number: (27) (31) 209-8762
General Sydenham Station Phone Numbers

Sydenham Station: (27) (31) 203-2700 / (27) (31) 203-2703 / (27) (31) 203-2704

We can’t be certain if contacting them will make a difference. Nayager personally assaulted S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu last year, and had his colleagues photograph the assault, while we were protesting outside and while journalists from two newspapers were outside and others were phoning. But it certainly can’t hurt to make sure that they know that they are being watched and that the people in their cells are not alone and in these kinds of circumstances everything must be tried. So, sure, if anyone is prepared to phone or fax through messages of concern about the way that the prisoners are being treated or to express a general concern about the crass racism and systematic violence, as well as the habitual theft from shack dwellers by armed police officers on ‘raids’, all of which the station has become widely known for that would be worth doing.

To see a few seconds of the Sydenham Police in action take a look at the video clips at http://abahlali.org//////node/235 and http://abahlali.org//////node/234 They only capture the opening moments of a sustained attack at Foreman Road and don’t show the use of live ammunition or the shooting of people at point blank range with rubber bullets while they were curled on the ground but its enough to get a sense of who Abahlali is dealing with here.

Richard

***************************************

From Farhana Loonat:

Hi,

I just called Sydenham police station, and spoke to Nayager. I suspect that I was only put through to him because I said I was calling from the University of Virginia in the US. Anyhow, when i got to Nayager, I expressed my concern at reports on people being assaulted at Sydenham police station, and was like, ‘if you have any complaint, you shouldnt call me. you should write your ‘little story’ and get it investigated’. For me this suggests that Nayager is so comfortable, even in his suggestion that the complaint be investigated, because he knows that even that is such a challenge. I am sure most of you are aware of Raj’s experience when he tried to report the theft of his camera.

I also forwarded the story to the SABC in Durban. I have not yet received a response, but do expect one shortly. But at the same time, i must say that I am not very hopeful about the SABC. My own time at the SABC in Durban made it clear that my country was being ‘informed’ by really shady people. I worked in the newsroom, and what i saw and heard shocked me. I was really sickened when i heard a woman who also works in the newsroom suggest that the woman involved in the Zuma rape case was a slut. I dont think this is the space to let loose on the full SABC experience., so i will let it rest.

Farhana

*****************************************

From Richard Pithouse:
22 March, 6:50 p.m.

Dear All

There is some good news. Ma Gwala was released today. Many of the people on this list who have visited Kennedy Road know Ma Gwala as she does the cooking for the creche every day and for other functions at Kennedy Road. She is a wonderfully warm and special person who cares for 5 children in her small shack, including one orphan and one very sick child. Zama and Lungi who work at the creche took the 5 children to the police station yesterday and today in a powerful protest to show the police officers and workers at the station the human cost of the arrest of Ma Gwala. The anti-Nayagar people in the station have been very covert in their reaching out to the community so far but it seems that Nayagar came under more direct internal pressure in response to the women’s protest over the last two days and he was finally persuaded to speak to Zama and Lungi who told him that they would expect him to arrange child care for as long as he detained Ma Gwala. He then released Ma Gwala. She is the furtherest thing from a murderer imaginable and was clearly picked up just because she is such a committed and respected activist in the settlement. She received a hero’s welcome today. Her husband who is very sick, so sick that he hasn’t left his shack from months, is still in detention however.

Just minutes ago Dumezweni Cibane and Ngezo Mzimela were also released. We’ll here from them what happened inside later tonight.

Cosmos Nkwanyana, S’thembiso Bhengu, S’bongiseni Gwala (all of the Kennedy Road Development Committee) and Thina Khanyile (the man who was stabbed for his running shoes) will appear in the Durban Magistrate’s court tomorrow at 9:00. S’bu Zikode has spoken to Mark Serfontein, who successfully represented the Siyanda 5 recently , and who has agreed to appear tomorrow pro bono.

Other good news is that S’bu was on iGagasi FM live during the road blockade yesterday and the media response from local newspapers has been very good in that they have all been actively seeking to speak to people in Kennedy Road and are making serious efforts to get both sides of this story. (The more general trend is for the media to just run police statements as fact but Abahlali have built up good networks and credibility over the years by always telling the truth and, no doubt, Naygar’s habit of threatening journalists with violence hasn’t exactly helped his credibility with the media)

There have also been overtures from important church figures looking to develop support and this is very much appreciated. More will be said about this soon. And Mnikelo Ndabankulu has prepared a powerful draft statement that condemns vigilante action but also condemns the criminality of the Sydenham Police and the misuse of the assault on Thina Khanyile’s assailant to try and settle political scores with the Kennedy Road Development Committee.

Kennedy Road and Abhalali are standing firm and spirits have been lifted by the release of the three people and the solidarity from various quarters.

Richard

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Friday, 23 March

So, almost two years to the day after the 14 heroes stood in front of Magistrate Asmal, it was another red day in the Magistrate’s Court (and there have been plenty in the last two years). The 4 accused have been remanded in custody for a further 7 days for further investigations to be conducted and will appear in court again on Friday next week for a bail hearing. None of the accused is employed. S’thembiso Bhengu runs a small shop in the settlement selling sweets, cigarettes and fruit, Cosmos Nkwanyana and his wife buy vegetables in town and hawk them in the settlement. Often they can’t afford to eat any of the vegetables they trade in. He has shingles as a result of malnutrition. Mr. Gwala has been too sick to leave his shack for months. He and his wife, Ma Gwala, also have a very sick child and care for an orphan too. Thina Khanyile is also unemployed. They can ill afford to be locked away from their families for a week let alone the months that may well lie ahead. But although there could be a very long legal process it seems highly unlikely that the state could get a conviction. They may have their informer who is telling them what they want to hear in exchange for getting off from criminal charges. But there were a lot of people who witnessed what did in fact happen. Some residents of the settlement did assault the man who stabbed Khanyile for his running shoes. But its certain that none of the arrested KRDC members are guilty of anything at all, let alone murder.

So the 4 accused will spend another week in the Sydenham Police station which, as bad as it is, is still better than Westville prison. The state is clear that they still want to make more arrests in the coming days.

During the long wait in the court yesterday System Cele told me that one of the police officers, warning her that she was about to get more teeth broken, screamed at her that ‘you much keep your AIDS and dirt inside – don’t bring it onto our road’.

Just one small correction – lots of people are reporting that the leadership of Abahlali baseMjondolo has been arrested. This is not the case. Kennedy Road is one branch of, at last count, around 36 ABM branches. It is a very important branch, probably the largest. But it is the local Kennedy Road leadership that is being targeted. People who hold office in the ABM secretariat and who live in Kennedy Road have not been targeted. It therefore seems pretty clear that this is not, as with the arrests and assault of S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu late last year, an attack on the movement from the city or provincial or national level. It seems clear that this is about a very local elite settling its scores with Kennedy Road.

Richard

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Friday, 30 March 3:17 p.m.

I was not at court today but after speaking to people who were I can tell you all that the news is not good. The attitude of the I.O. and the prosecutor was very hostile. The people now entering their second week in detention are being casually referred to as ‘dangerous criminals’ and more arrests are threatened. The Kennedy 5 have been remanded in custody till 13 April which means that, if there is in fact a bail hearing on that date, that they will have been in detention for more than a month before being able to apply for bail. And of course they may well be denied bail and if they are granted it it is not at all clear how it will be afforded. Furthermore the I.O. is clear that he intends to arrest the remaining 4 members of the K.R.D.C. – in other words he is determined to arrest the whole committee.

More bad news is that the Kennedy 5 have now been taken to Westville Prison, a truly frightening place. Apparently the argument is that these ‘dangerous criminals’ may escape from the cells at the Sydenham Police station. As bad as the Sydenham Police station there is, at least, the possibility of some leverage over their more local power. There are channels through which information can flow from the station to the communities outside and the officers there know that they are within very close and quick marching distance of 3 large strongly Abahlali settlements with a combined population of well more than 10 000 people.

A sliver of good news is that active steps are now been taken to move ahead with suing and investigating the Sydenham Police for various previous incidents of illegal and abusive behaviour towards shack dwellers – and there is a long list. There are now assaults on a more or less daily basis as well as petty forms of victimisation like people being fined a hundred rand for ‘drinking in public’ when in fact they are drinking in a shack which is a home and which has 4 walls and a ceiling. Also, with help from Dorothy Holscher and some of her students, some first steps are being taken towards trauma counseling for people who have been assaulted, arrested or who have family members inside. This is really important for the people concerned but also for the movement. Abahlali, with its deep democratic commitments and its equally deep commitments to make sure that it is what S’bu calls a home for the poor, a place where everyone (old and young, poor and very poor, men and women) is respected and valued right now (rather than as a final goal of some long political process), has never and could never endorse any politics that in any way allows some people to render others as cannon fodder. The counselling is one way of concretising this commitment. Arrangements have also been made for the immediate food and other needs of the families. A lot of people are asking what they can do. Abahlali welcomes all ideas. Money is important but so, also, are expressions of support. It really helps for people to know that they are not alone in times like this.

A further sliver of good news is that articles by M’du Hlongwa and S’bu Zikode, written a while ago, appear in the Mail & Guardian today on page 30 and 31. They are online at the following urls:

The No Land, No House, No Vote Campaign Still on for 2009 by M’du Hlongwa http://abahlali.org//////node/510

Make Crime History by S’bu Zikode http://abahlali.org/node/551

The articles make very important arguments that deserve a wider readership. But it’s also really important at this time while Abahlali and the KRDC are being presented as ‘dangerous criminals’ by the state (and the handful of vanguardists in the left NGOs who have donor funding but no constituency and behave with exactly the same paranoid authoritarianism as the state when the poor threaten their power by daring to speaking for themselves) to have an opportunity for people in Abahlali to have a chance to represent themselves as they are, as rational people engaged in a deeply ethical project that, ultimately, holds the promise of a broader redemption, via a humanising movement, of an increasingly pathological society.

When the letters from Kennedy Road were sent out last week S’bu’s letter was accidentally left out (although it has been on the website). It is below.

S’bu has just phoned to say that the police helicopters are circling above Kennedy Road again.

Richard

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“Now that our humanity has been vandalized by the police in this way we have finally fully understood that we are not citizens of this country.”
-S’bu Zikode

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Friday, March 30, 2007
Socialist Student Movement and Democratic Socialist Movement:

Comrades,
We wish to express our full support as you defend the arrested Kennedy Road comrades. The arrests and the hostile treatment in court today amount to a blatant attempt by the state to weaken the Abahlali baseMjondolo Movement. We need to fight to keep alive the possibilities of exercising
our hard won rights to protest and freedom of association within the limits of the bourgeoisie democracy. It is incumbent upon the leftist organizations of this country to expose all human rights abuses done by the police and courts.

The outrageous attack against Abahlali shows the weakness, not the strength, of the state and the capitalist system that it represents. In the face of mass struggle, of modest demands for housing and basic services, the state has shown again and again that the only response it can come up with is the police dogs, police bullets and police cells. Now they are apparently getting even more desperate. So, comrades, be strong!

We support Abahlali’s call for two independent investigations; one into the death of Mzwakhe Sithole, who died after a week in custody at the Sydenham police station, after being handed over to the police by Kennedy
Road residents, and another one into the operations of the Sydenham police station. Be strong!

Today, we were unable to be at the court as we have been organising pickets and meetings at the Westville and Howard College Campuses of the University of KwaZulu-Natal against the financial exclusions that have already shut out 101 students in the past few weeks. At least 549 others,
in these two campuses only are still under threat of exclusion. We will continue with daily pickets next week, aiming at a bigger protest Wednesday.

We are urging all social movements and working class organizations, big or small, to speak up in solidarity with the Abahlali comrades. If you keep quiet now, next time the police might come for you.

Yours in solidarity

Liv and Xolani Shange for the Democratic Socialist Movement and the Socialist Student Movement

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Wednesday, April 03, 2007
Press Release from the Remaining Members of the Kennedy Road Development Committee (K.R.D.C.)

The Kennedy 5 Are Now On Hunger Strike in Westville Prison

Last Night Our Mass Meeting Decided to March on the Sydenham Police Station and on Tuesday and to Light Candles There in Support Our Comrades

At 3:00 in the morning on Human Rights day, 21 March, 9 residents of our shack settlement, Kennedy Road, in Durban, South Africa were arrested by Police from the nearby Sydenham Police station. Five of the arrested were released after a two day women’s protest at the Sydenham police station. Halala Izimbokodo! Celebrate the strength of women! But then they arrested one more person and so five community members are still detained. There names are:

1. Cosmos Nkwanyana
2. S’thembiso Bhengu
3. S’bongiseni Gwala
4. Thina Khanyile
5. M’du Ngqulunga

They are in Westville prison and will appear in court on 13 April to ask for bail. This means that they will have already been in jail for one month before they even get a chance to ask for bail. And the magistrate may deny bail. The Kennedy 5 have now decided to go on a hunger strike. They stopped eating on Sunday. They do not undertake this action lightly. They have written a list of demands which we expect to get today.

The background to this sad story is that on 15 February 2007 a Kennedy Road resident, Thina Khanyile, was attacked near the bus stop on Umgeni Road while training for the Comrades Marathon. He was stabbed 18 times and robbed of his shoes and his watch. He would have died if a truck driver from Kennedy Road hadn’t seen him there and quickly bought him up to the settlement where we could call an ambulance.

On 18 February a well known and dangerous criminal living in the settlement told people in the community that Khanyile’s attacker was in the Kennedy Road settlement. Those people restrained the suspect without causing any hurt to him and sent for Khanyile. Khanyile recognized him as the man who had almost killed him. At that point some people in the community began to assault the man who we now know was Mzwake Sithole from Ntuzuma. Members of the Safety & Security sub-committee in the Kennedy Road Development Committee immediately called the police. They called the police because even though there are such bad problems with most of the police here we still have to go to the few good police officers for serious cases like attempted murder and murder. When the police arrived the man looked to be fine. The crowd of more than 50 people all saw the police assaulting the man with kicks and punches as he walked to the van and climbed inside.

Khanyile then went twice to the Sydenham Police station to open up a case against his attacker. We heard nothing more until the Human Rights Day arrests. When the arrests were made we were told that Sithole had died in police custody a week after his arrest. But what has shocked us is that the police just arrested Khanyile, the victim of Sithole’s attack, and the K.R.D.C. Most of the people who they arrested were not even there on that day! And it was the Safety & Security Committee of the K.R.D.C. that immediately phoned the police to come and fetch Sithole’s attacker! There was a big group of people who were there and who saw what did happen. It is not difficult to speak to them and to get the truth. Anyone who wants to find out the truth of what happened that day can find it very easily. If there is a trial then the truth will come out very easily and very clearly in the court. It is clear that Glen Nayager, head of the Sydenham Police, has seen his opportunity to break the famous spirit of Kennedy Road by misusing this incident this to destroy the K.R.D.C. Nayager does not try to hide the fact that he hates the K.R.D.C., that he hates Abahlali baseMjondolo, the big movement of shack dwellers that Kennedy Road is part of, and that he wants all shack dwellers to be forcibly removed out of his area. He is always telling us that we ‘must go back where we came from’ and that ‘there will be no red shirts here’. We have heard that this is very similar to what happened to the Landless People’s Movement in Johannesburg where activists were arrested on fake murder charges in an attempt to break the spirit of the movement after a man died in a shack fire. No one has any doubt that the K.R.D.C. is under political attack by Nayager. He does not only tell us that he wants to attack the K.R.D.C. and Abahlali baseMjondolo. Journalists are telling us that he is saying this openly to them too.

We have discussed this matter very carefully and we all agree that if Sithole is now dead then his death must be carefully investigated. We have made a whole politics on the ground that everybody matters. Therefore every death must be taken seriously just as every life must be taken seriously. But the Sydenham Police cannot be trusted to make this investigation. It is true that some people in Kennedy Road did assault Sithole after he was identified as Khanyile’s attacker. But it is also true that more than 50 people also saw the police assaulting Sithole when they came to fetch him from Kennedy Road. And we don’t know what happened in the van and in the cells after that. But we do know that ever since Nayager came to the Sydenham Police station in 2004 people are arrested on fake charges all the time and people are beaten all the time – especially in the cells. Nayager is following in the steps of his cruel father who tortured the black consciousness activists in the 70s. Around 200 of us have been arrested in the last two years and every time the charges are dropped because they were nonsense but that still gives the police a chance to beat us while and after arresting us. Therefore the arrests on fake charges become a punishment without any hearing in front of a judge! This makes Nayager, a criminal, the man who judges us and then gives us the sentence. That station has become a place of suffering for the innocent. Many of us, and many people from other Abahlali settlements, have been beaten very badly there after being arrested for marching for land and housing in the city. Afterwards Nayager always lies to the media about what happened but many, many people, including lots of journalists, have seen for themselves how he behaves. Journalists have seen Nayager’s police shooting at us with pistols as are running away. There is even a film of the police attacking us. It is on our website. Right now Abahlali is organising to sue Nayagar and the Sydenham Police with the support of X-Y and Amnesty International for a very bad beating of two Abahlali members in the cells and the shooting of one more last year. Therefore the K.R.D.C. is calling for an independent investigation into Sithole’s death. That investigation must be carried out by a neutral team that can closely examine the role of the Sydenham Police and the role of the community speaking to everyone and looking fairly and honestly at all the facts.

Ever since Nayager came to the Sydenham Police station all shack dwellers in Sydenham, Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills have been treated as if we are criminals and as if we are not human beings. This man has vandalized our humanity. And when Abahlali baseMjondolo was started two years he began to hate us even more. He is always telling us that he will drive the red shirts out of his area. Sometimes you can be arrested and beaten just for wearing a red shirt even if you are just waiting at the bus stop. One person was even arrested on a charge of attending an illegal gathering while asleep in his bed! It seems that even planning to attend a march is a crime for Nayager. It is not the job of the police to decide which organisations can work in an area and which can not. Their work is to protect the people from criminals not to silence the voice of the poor. They should be working for all the people as the servants of the people including the poor. They are never there when our women face abuse but if you put on a red shirt 8 vans can be there in 5 minutes!

We are also calling for a second investigation. We believe very strongly that the many abuses that the Sydenham Police have perpetrated on the shack dwellers of the area since Nayager’s arrival must be investigated very closely. The problems of racism, violence, corruption, criminality and political oppression at the police station need to be investigated very seriously. This police station is like a sore in the community – a sore that gets worse as it rots more each day. We know that it doesn’t have to be this way because there was a good relationship between shackdwellers and the police when Supt. Maritz was the head. In those days we worked together, once even working with the Air Wing to catch some armed robbers who were also abusing women while hiding in one the settlements. In those days shackdwellers could go to the police and have their problems taken seriously although there was a problem of police not understanding isiZulu. But for that reason one of our members became a reservist. We would like to work closely with the police again and in fact a few weeks ago we met with some police officers who also want this. But in our discussions with those good offices we quickly ran into one big problem – Nayagar. Shackdwellers and the police can’t work together in Sydenham and Clare Estate and Reservoir Hills while Nayager is there. His hatred for us all and his political mission to try and crush the voice of the strong poor makes a good relationship impossible.

It is important to say something about the Safety & Security Sub-Committee of the K.R.D.C. because the police are talking as though that committee are criminals. We have this committee to resolve tensions in the community and to sort out problems that are too small for the police or that police won’t bother themselves with. The members of this committee are elected every year and are not paid for this work. People do it only for the love of the community and for the honour. When there is a problem between two people this committee tries where ever possible to get people to agree to a solution that both can accept. When this is not possible the committee can ask a person who has done something wrong to pay a fine to the person that they have harmed or, if what they did was very bad, to leave the settlement. The committee does not use violence. The community wants this committee and votes every year for people to be on it. It is especially wanted by women because as everyone knows the women who are living alone in shacks are very vulnerable to criminals. A shack is not strong like a big house. Anyone can push inside any time. The committee is the only place that they can turn to.

We also want to make it very clear that we are aware that Nayager is using the worst criminal in the area as his main informer. This man, the same man who told people that Sithole was Khanyile’s attacker, is pointing out the committee to Nayager in exchange for not being arrested for his crimes – crimes against the rich and against the poor. This man robs rich people in their houses and he robs poor people at the bus stop. Therefore Nayager is protecting dangerous criminals to attack democrats who are only struggling to build a country that makes space for everyone who lives here! We also know who the other informer is. This man has resentment because he was voted out of the K.R.D.C. in 2003 after one year of serving as deputy Chair. His son-in-law recently accused his neighbour, Ma Gwala, of witchcraft. He was jealous of all the respect that she was getting in the community for caring for the orphans and working at the crèche. Ma Gwala went to the Safety & Security to complain. There was a hearing on 18 February, the same day as the day when Khanyile’s attacker was identified. At that hearing S’thembiso Bhengu and Cosmos Nkwanyane decided that this man’s son-in-law must pay R1000.00 to Ma Gwala to wash her name. That is the reason why Ma Gwala, her husband and her brother as well as Bhengu and Nkwanyane were pointed out. Nayager is misusing the death of Sithole to attack the K.R.D.C. His informers are misusing Nayager’s hatred to point out their own enemies. This is not justice. This is an unjust alliance between political oppression from the police and a criminal and a jealous man in the community. M’du Ngqulunga also wasn’t present when Sithole was attacked. But he has been pointed because the day after the first 9 were arrested he mentioned the role of Nayager’s criminal informer at a mass meeting. That’s when the informer gave his name.

We want thank all the organisations and individuals who have sent messages of support like the Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Socialist Students’ Movement and others. We can’t always reply because we don’t always have airtime and we don’t have email but we thank you. Every message is shared with the community. Many people have asked who they can write to in order to express their concern. We have discussed this and decided on a man at the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD). Our experience with the ICD has not been good. They did not help when Nayager’s police broke System Cele’s front teeth by beating her so hard on the back of her head that her face smashed into the road or when Nayager stole Raj Patel’s camera with pictures of the attack on System Cele or when Nayager threatened other journalists with violence. They did not help when the police shot Monica Ngcobo in the back in Umlazi. They did not help after S’bu Zikode and Philani Zungu were beaten by Nayager in the cells in his police station for the crime of trying to attend a radio interview and another lady was shot for protesting against this the beating of Zikode and Zungu. But a good friend of Abahlali has told us that there is a good man in the Internal Complaints Directorate. We will be meeting with this man soon and our friends are welcome to ask him to consider our requests which are:

1. A neutral and fair and serious investigation of Sithole’s death that includes the Sydenham police and the Kennedy Road community without bias.
2. An investigation of the Sydenham Police station from the arrival of Nayager to now including police brutality, corruption, theft, racism and political oppression including political violence.

The name of the man at the ICD is Mr. Mthokozisi Ngcobo and his email address is JNgcono@ICD.gov.za

We are especially asking our friends who have witnessed Nayager’s behaviour and other criminal actions of the Sydenham police to send their stories and photographs and films to Mr. Ngcobo. We know that there are people all over the world who know the truth about how Nayager behaves. One American boy has a photograph of a police officer from Sydenham firing his pistol into the backs of fleeing demonstrators in Foreman Road.

Our friends have also been asking about financial support in the time of this crisis. We have talked about this and are we are asking people who can to give financial support to the families of the 5 men on hunger strike in Westville Prison. If the Kennedy 5 are awarded bail on 13 April we will also need bail money for them. And we will need money for a lawyer for the trial. We need about R5 000 a month for the five families. We have a lawyer with a good heart who is standing with us now for the love of God not money. But he is only available till the end of the month and then we might need to pay a lawyer. We’ll need about R20 000 for the trial. If the Kennedy 5 get bail that will be set by the magistrate but because none of the 5 are employed and none of their family members are employed we hope that it will be kept low.

Our account details are:

Kennedy Road Development Committee
Bank: First National Bank
Acc no: 62089969293
Branch: Umgeni Junction

For people in America money can be donated by going to ‘support’ on our website which is at www.abahlali.org

People who can give money should state what they want the money to be for: ‘Family support’, ‘bail’ or ‘lawyer’.

Our mass meeting last night decided to march on the Sydenham Police station this Tuesday. We will surround the police station and light candles and sing. We are informing the authorities of this march today so they can’t claim that this will be an illegal march and beat again. If they try to illegally ban this march we will take them straight back the high court like we did in February last year.

For further information please contact:

Mr. Lembede 0766837751
Mr. Mdlalose 0721328458

Qina bahlali!
Umhlaba! Izindlu!
Phansi maphoyisa shaya abantu!
Wathint’ abahlali, wathint’ imbokodo!
Amandla Awethu!

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Thursday, 5 March – Hunger Strike Day 5

Dear All

For two whole days now visitors to Westville prison have been able to located the Kennedy 5. When the hunger strike was announced the families were told that detainees had been moved to special accommodation in the prison but nothing further has been heard. Relatives and comrades have spent the whole day waiting in the circumlocution office of the jail with no clear word on what is happening or where the people are. It’s just been obstructionism all the way. However contact has been made with Popcru, the prison warder’s union, and support on this matter has been won. A union official made it quite clear that he thought it appalling that ‘people can just disappear like that’ and that ‘there is no way that we can along a thing like this to happen’. He has promised to get on the matter first thing tomorrow morning.

However at the moment we do not have the memorandum written by the Kennedy 5 nor do we know how they are handling the hunger strike or how they are being treated. Two of the 5 were already seriously ill at the time of the arrest and of course their families are particularly anxious.

S’bu Zikode has applied for permission for the march on the Sydenham Police station. He has been asked to attend a meeting with ‘specialised units’ tomorrow morning. He was able to shift the venue of the meeting from the police station to Kennedy Road but the police officer warned that ‘it is unlikely that we will give permission for the march’.

Below is an article from this morning’s Mercury.

Richard

http://www.themercury.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=3767547

Accused residents ‘on hunger strike’

April 05, 2007 Edition 1

Carvin Goldstone

MEMBERS of the Kennedy Road informal settlement who are being held at Westville Prison on charges of murder have apparently gone on a hunger strike in an attempt to draw attention to their case.

This is according to residents of the settlement, who have been visiting the five awaiting-trial prisoners. However, the Correctional Services Department has been unable to confirm the hunger strike.

The five inmates were arrested in connection with the death of Mzwakhe Sithole, an Ntuzuma man who died while in police custody.

On February 15, Sithole had allegedly attacked and robbed Kennedy Road resident Thina Khanyile in Umgeni Road.

Residents of the settlement apparently caught and beat up Sithole.

Police Supt Vincent Mdunge said that Sydenham police had rescued Sithole, who had been “seriously assaulted”.

“Because of the seriousness of the situation, he was taken through to the police station for safety reasons,” he said.

Sithole allegedly had later tried to escape from the police station, but had collapsed just outside.
Mdunge said he did not consider Sithole’s death a death in custody and denied that police had also beaten him up.

After Sithole died, five people whom police believed were involved in his assault were arrested and charged with murder.

They are now apparently on a hunger strike.

Kennedy Road development committee member Gerald Mdlalose said the five residents in jail had been on a hunger strike since Sunday because they were unhappy with their arrests. “The investigating officer in this case does not have enough evidence that they were involved in this murder.

“The man was punished and handed over to police, and the police told the people that the man had passed away,” he said.

The committee is demanding a neutral investigation into Sithole’s death that would probe the Sydenham Police and Kennedy Road residents without bias.

Correctional Services Department spokesman Manelisi Wolela could not confirm the hunger strike claim yesterday.

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April 5th

Dear Friends,

This is too much. I have been meaning to write an open letter to Nayagar and the Syndehnam Police Station with regard to the kind of apartheid type treatment being inflicted on people whose only crime is to be poor in a country whose current leaders, during the struggle against apartheid, had vowed to put an end to this kind of treatment.

Many of us did all we could to support that kind of struggle and many of us find it hard to believe that officers like Mr. Nayagar could function, with apartheid era type of impunity, and, on top of it get away with it and even brag about it.

I would just like to put a few questions because I tell myself that maybe I do not understand all of the things which I hear from the members of the Shackdwellers movement.

My main question, Mr. Nayagar is this: if poor people, on the basis of the South African Constitution, call for being treated with justice and dignity; is it a crime? Are you saying that to be poor and to speak up against poverty by asking to be treated with justice and cignity is a crime?

But I would like others in the South Africa of today to also consider this question as being adddressed to them, from the richest to the poorest. After all, if Mr. Nayagar, a law officer, can get away with a behavior which is more reminiscent of the apartheid era than of today’s, then an outside observer may well conclude that Archbishop D. Tutu and others are right to warn about the loss of the moral compass in today’s South Africa.

In the meantime, please convey our solidarity with the Kennedy 5, their friends and their families. This is on behalf of Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in the DRC and in the USA. Ota Benga, a pygmy from the Congo was treated as subhuman. One would have thought that in the South Africa of today, every single law enforcement officer would work harder than anybody else to make sure that no one, and especially the poorest and most despised members of society, would ever be treated like yet another Ota Benga.

Please stay strong because you are not just doing this for those around you, but also for millions of poor around the world. Do take care, Jacques Depelchin. Executive Director, Ota Benga Alliance for Peace, Healing and Dignity in the DRC and in the USA.

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Good Friday, 6 March 2007

Word has been received from the Kennedy 5 via a quick cell phone conversation. They were able to explain that they were removed to an isolation cell on the 7th floor of the prison, room 702, after they announced their hunger strike and began refusing food. They are resolute.

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Please also see:
1. Letters from Kennedy Road – http://abahlali.org/node/920
2. Kennedy Road Tension Rises – http://abahlali.org/node/919
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