Press Release by the Landless People’s Movement
On the 26th March, the day before we, the LPM youth, were to have our march to demand that our councilor step down, the JMPD prohibited us. The reasons the police gave for this were that we are violent and unruly and that they “know” us. They referred to a march organised by the Gauteng LPM that happened in 2002 when we refused to leave Mbaziama Shilowa’s office. This march, we explained, was not organised by the youth. Regardless, they said they didn’t have the time and manpower to plan a safe and peaceful march and that if we carried out the march, they would be “hard” on us. We took this to mean that they would arrest us over the weekend and also brutalise us by beating us and shooting us with rubber bullets. The government will not meet with us, and now we believe they are even working with the police to suppress our right to express ourselves openly by marching. There is a real problem in our democracy when the government and the police have time to suppress and brutalise us, but not to help us publicly express the demands that we feel will improve our futures.
The above picture shows the LPM youth in Protea South preparing for the march the day before they were told it was prohibited.
The LPM youth march peacefully throughout the night in Protea South even though they were aware that the march the following day was prohibited. This was a way of sending a clear message to the councilor that we will not back off even though the police and government are trying to suppress our rights. We will still find a way to have our demands met.
On the morning of the LPM youth march on the 27th, people gathered at Peacemakers ground in Protea South and the leaders of the LPM youth decided, in the end, not to march because they didn’t want people to get unnecessarily arrested and beaten by the police.
In a few weeks time, the government will want the youth to vote, but before we vote we will ask ourselves what they do to us when we try to have a march so that we can improve our futures. The answer is that they suppress us. By marching we are only expressing our right not to let our futures be held hostage by one corrupt councilor. We are also declaring that the community of Protea South must determine its own destiny. Asking our councilor to step down is not drastic and we are not the group of looters/hooligans that the police and the government like to think we are so that they can more easily suppress our demands. We are simply poor people seeking to release ourselves from the cold chains of injustice.
When we met with the police and they prohibited our march, they said “the meeting is over” and then left the room. The meeting was adjourned, but our struggle remains. They can threaten to arrest us but our demands for justice will not go away. For the poor, achieving justice is an ongoing process of struggle. We are all very aware that our strength in numbers, our bodies – the same ones that the police shoot with rubber bullets and arrest – are the only strength we have to make those in power listen to us. It is this strength that the police and government so badly want to suppress. But police suppression only gives the appearance of silencing our demands momentarily, when in fact it makes us more frustrated and gives us further reason to organise a more powerful march. We are considering how we can make our march have the greatest impact without sacrificing the youths to police brutality. It is then that the government, and society, will witness just how strong we are.
We have said it before and we will say it again: We are confident that justice will be served.
“We Shall Overcome”
Bongani Xezwi – LPM Youth Coordinator, Protea South 071 043 2221
Luke Sinwell – University of Johannesburg, LPM activist