Media: Backyard dwellers’ leader arrested for public violence

2 06 2009

Note: Mzonke Poni is still being held.  Police spokesmen have lied to activists and journalists about having already filed charges and him appearing in court this morning.  At the moment, we are not sure when he will be charged.

June 02, 2009 Edition 1
MICHELLE JONES

THE leader of the Macassar backyard dwellers in their struggle for land for housing, Mzonke Poni, has been arrested soon after his organisation won an interdict against the city demolishing their shacks.

Last night, a tense atmosphere remained in Macassar as backyard dwellers and law enforcement officers maintained a stand-off over a piece of land next to the N2 which had previously been invaded.

Poni is chairman of Abahlali baseMjondolo (Association of Shack Dwellers) which had led a number of protests against a lack of housing for the poor, and had previously been held.

Police spokesman Billy Jones said law enforcement officers had arrested Poni late yesterday afternoon and detained him at the Macassar police station. Jones said he had been arrested on suspicion of public violence after a protest by the backyard people.

Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign’s Ashraf Casiem said Poni would in turn lodge complaints of wrongful arrest and assault against the police.

The application for an urgent interdict was filed with the Western Cape High Court on Friday and was meant to be served on city manager Achmat Ebrahim yesterday.

Late yesterday, city spokeswoman Kylie Hatton could not confirm whether the interdict had been served.

The interdict prevents the city from demolishing the shacks built by occupants. On Saturday, the city destroyed a number of shacks which had again been built on the land.

Hatton said the city had not “acted contrary to that interdict”.

michelle.jones@inl.co.za

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