CAX launches Campaign Against Police Xenophobia and Harassment of Immigrants

23 02 2009

CAX Press Release

Coalition Against Xenophobia to picket outside the Hillbrow Magistrates Court this Wednesday 25th February at 09h00 in support of our comrade Pastor Mulumba, being tried on bogus charges laid against him by xenophobic police.

On Sunday 4th January our comrade Pastor Mulumba, a Congolese immigrant and founder member of the CAX, was arrested during a routine visit he made to the police station in order to obtain guidance on the plight of two children that had been placed in his care. At that time, he was beaten and abused by the police, and initially charged with assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest, and more seriously, of attempting to steal a police firearm.

The truth of the matter, as verified by witnesses and family members is that Pastor Mulumba was needlessly beaten and handcuffed to a radiator in the police station for a period of nearly nine hours. He was denied food and water, and was eventually released the next day with a broken arm, and other internal injuries. His injuries have been medically confirmed.

A few weeks ago he came to court to be charged, and of course he pleaded not guilty. He has made it known that he intends to press charges against the police. At the time of writing however, he has still to be contacted by the Public Defenders Office, despite the court granting him the right to representation. At that appearance, around twenty CAX members were there to picket against police harassment and were well received by the public. Pastor Mulumba was grateful for the support of CAX and other well wishers. Despite his injuries, he has continued to give advice to many refugees.

On 10th February the Pastor was asked to return to Yeoville police station and when he voluntarily did so, was promptly rearrested and told he was to be charged, on the insistence of a third party, for failing to declare the whereabouts of the two children who had been temporarily in the care of himself and his wife. Despite providing full and honest answers as to the whereabouts of the children (who had been placed  in a safe and well known charitable institution) he was needlessly detained in Hillbrow Police Station for two nights while investigations and charges processed. Still recovering from his physical and mental assault, he was shown little sympathy.

Importantly, several of the police officers conducting this most recent arrest were the same ones who had participated in his first detention, and they did not hesitate to let it be known that they were angry with him for being reported on in the newspapers, and for mobilising people against xenophobia.  On the morning of Friday 13th February he was to appear in court, and it became very clear that this latest arrest had been manufactured by exerting pressure on an uncle of the two children in question who had only recently arrived in the country. After a number of formal and informal interventions from friends and CAX members, the second wave of additional charges against Pastor Mulumba were withdrawn, and he returned home late in the morning, tired, hungry and thirsty, but determined as ever to seek justice.

This is a very grave situation indeed. Comrade Pastor has now had to undergo several nights in prison, he has been physically and verbally abused, he is known as a Human Rights and Refugee activist, and he is essentially being punished for insisting on his rights to a fair hearing and procedure. Of course, this has made him even more determined to seek redress.

We as the Coalition Against Xenophobia, however, are convinced that the experiences of Pastor Mulumba are by no means exceptional or unusual. In fact we believe that the maltreatment meted out to our member is the standard and routine way in which the South African Police Service deals with immigrants. We believe that the SAPS, as an institution, are inherently xenophobic, and that countless immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers fall victim – on a daily basis – to police harassment, corruption and abuse by virtue of the fact that they are not South African nationals. The case of Pastor Mulumba may be peculiar in that he is determined to seek justice, and is willing to publicly speak out against police xenophobia, and because of this he may be particularly targeted by the police. But this type of mistreatment of immigrants by the police occurs on a daily basis across the country.

Pastor Mulumba, who still faces a number of serious charges (stealing a firearm has been dropped however), is to appear again at the Hillbrow Magistrates Court at 09h00 on Wednesday 25th February. The Coalition Against Xenophobia will be holding a picket outside the court to show our support for our comrade and to demand justice. This picket will mark the launch of CAX’s campaign against police corruption and xenophobia and the harassment and abuse of immigrants. We invite the media and all those concerned with the unconstitutional and xenophobic practices of the police to attend.

The majority of immigrants who suffer the humiliation and abuse of the police, because of their often precarious state in South African society and because they fear for their safety and do not believe that South African law – and law enforcement – guarantees them protection, are unwilling to publicly denounce the police and demand they be held accountable for their despicable actions.

Because of this, the CAX will be using the case of Pastor Mulumba to launch a campaign against the xenophobia/misuse or authority from the police, their corruption and systematic harassment, and abuse of immigrants.

We urge all locals/immigrants and freedom- and justice-seeking people to support the campaign, and to join us in the struggle against police corruption and the abuse of power.

We firmly believe that local/immigrants in South Africa have as much a right as anyone else to walk the streets free from the fear of being routinely stopped by the police, strip-searched in public, beaten, robbed and humiliated.

It is our determination therefore to bring an end to police taking advantage of authority or uniform/xenophobia. If the police are not held accountable for their xenophobic actions we have every reason to believe that such attitudes will permeate deeper into society at large.

In this respect we see it as incumbent on the South African government to lead by example in changing immigration policies that incubate xenophobic attitudes and conduct, as well as to institute anti-xenophobic educational initiatives within the police force, the Department of Home Affairs and all other state and government bodies.

Through our campaign we will be putting pressure on the government to make good on its promises to combat xenophobia.

For comment contact:

Steve Faulkner (SAMWU) on 082 817-5455
Chichi Richard on 083 966-0627




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