30 November 2009
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Statement
The Kennedy Thirteen were back at court on Friday for their 6th attempt at requesting bail. After two months in detention all charges were dropped against one of the thirteen, six were given bail and the other five were remanded in custody to give the police one more chance to bring some evidence against them to the court. The next court date has been set for 11 December 2009. This will be the 7th opportunity given to the police to provide some evidence of guilt.
As usual Jackson Gumede and Yakoob Baig were at the court and openly advising the prosecution. Gumede is the chairperson of the Branch Executive Committee of the ANC in Ward 25 and the man who seized control of the Kennedy Road settlement on 27th September 2009. Baig is the ANC Councillor for Ward 25 who said that ‘harmony’ had been restored after the attack on AbM. He was also at the settlement on 27th September and they both stood by while the homes of the Kennedy Road Development Committee and well known Abahlali baseMjondolo members were systematically demolished. Since the ANC seized control of the settlement extreme intimidation has continued in the settlement, including death threats and threats to demolish more people’s homes. In fact another home was demolished yesterday, on Sunday 30 November. It is a crime to threaten to kill people if they are suspected of not supporting your political party. It is also a crime to demolish someone’s house if they are suspected of not supporting your political party. But these crimes are not investigated. No one is arrested. It is clear that these crimes are carried out with the full support of the local police and the local ANC. Baig and Gumede are, at the very least, complicit with the ongoing and criminal political intimidation in the Kennedy Road settlement. Yet they are able to advise the prosecution. It is clear that the police and the court is there for the ANC and not for the people.
The magistrate said that there would be an investigation as to whether there was an Abahlali meeting before the attack. She made it sound like holding a meeting would be a clear sign of guilt. But of course there was an Abahlali meeting! It was the Abahlali Youth League Camp that was attacked! Will all of us who were at that meeting now qualify to be arrested? Holding meetings is not a crime. It is attacking meetings that is a crime!
We held the Youth League Camp on 26th September to talk about our needs and our own struggle – nothing else. When the camp was attacked we didn’t know why we were being attacked. We didn’t know who was attacking us. The attack was a total surprise and a total shock. All that we knew was that the attackers were saying that they were going to drive the AmamPondo out of the settlement and that they were going to kill the Abahlali leaders.
The police did not come when we called them. When they did come we were so shocked to see that our own comrades were arrested and not the attackers. Then the ANC politicians came to the settlement. They celebrated the attack. They did nothing to stop the demolition of our member’s houses. Willies Mchunu said that ‘Kennedy Road’ had been liberated. It became very clear who our attackers were.
When we went to court to support our comrades there was no doubt as to who had attacked us. The ANC were there with their flag and in their t-shirts to demand that our comrades be denied bail. Everything was clear.
On that first bail hearing we went to court wearing our full Abahlali uniform. We were stopped at the gate. The securities said that they would only accept 10 people in red shirts to enter the court.
So we had a meeting and delegated ten comrades to go inside the court. When they went inside they found that the court was packed with ANC supporters in their t-shirts. When Councillor Yakoob Baig walked into the court he went straight to the state prosecutor. The prosecutor spoke to the police and then the police came straight to our ten comrades in their red shirts and said that the court was too crowded and that they must leave. That was when we realised that the ANC was not only attacking us with drunk men with guns and knives – they were also going to attack us with the court. Every time when we are going to court they are saying that we who are wearing red shirts can’t go inside but that those who are wearing ANC shirts can move freely.
We came with the strategy of not wearing red shirts but we found that the court was still not fair. Even while the court was in session the ANC supporters were shouting, chanting slogans and even swearing. When the Kennedy Thirteen were being brought in and out of the cells the ANC supporters were standing up insulting, intimidating and trying to assault them. Comrade Sam from Arnett Drive and Mama Ngongoma from Siyanda were physically assaulted in the court. The police did nothing. The magistrate said nothing. Everyone knows that you have to be silent in court. If you talk or your phone rings you are immediately made to leave. Those are the rules by which we must respect the court. But the ANC could do what they liked an no action was taken against them.
The ANC supporters would wait for us outside the court and insult, intimidate and threaten to attack us. The police would not defend us. Reverend Roland Vernon intervened to defend us despite insults, intimidation and threats to him. The ANC supporters openly say that the ANC instructed them to kill S’bu Zikode and that they will kill him. They have also threatened many other people with death at the court.
According to our understanding a court, any court, must be neutral. But this court is 100% ANC.
From our understanding everyone has the right to be charged within 48 hours if they are arrested but the Kennedy Thirteen spent two months in prison with no clear charge. Even the magistrate said that she only knew the charges on Friday, the 27th of November.
In fact the magistrate only found out who the Kennedy Thirteen really were on Friday. When the Kennedy Thirteen were arrested the ANC said that they were all members of the Safety & Security Committee (they called it ‘the forum’). At the last hearing even the magistrate was saying that most of our comrades are not coming from the Safety & Security. In fact it is only two who are coming from the Safety – the rest are all Abahlali members.
Yakoob Baig and Willies Mchunu submitted letters to the court asking for bail to be denied. S’bu Zikode wrote a letter in response saying that he knows the thirteen and their role in the community, that they are not dangerous and asking for bail to be granted. The prosecution said that Zikode’s letter must not count because he is no longer a leader. The magistrate repeated this saying that Zikode is no longer President of the Poor because he is no longer living in Kennedy Road. She said nothing about why he had to leave Kennedy Road, why his house was demolished or why he still can’t appear in public in Durban. We want to make it clear that we are poor people and that Zikode is our president.
We as organised shackdwellers want the remaining five comrades to be released. They have been to court six times and the police have failed to bring any evidence against them and to make any case against them. It is not right to detain people when there is no evidence against them.
The Kennedy Thirteen were not treated right in prison. Even their visitors were treated badly. The prison guards would make us wait for hours and hours to see them and then they would only let us see them for two minutes. There wasn’t even time to say Sawubona. You just had to throw the food in the cell and then go. We are worried about how the remaining five will be treated in prison. We are worried about their families.
We want a proper investigation – an investigation that is neutral, that only has the purpose of searching for the truth. We will reject any investigation that is an ANC investigation that only has the purpose of sending the organised poor back to the dark corners of our country – back to silence, back to weakness, back to evictions, back to transit camps, back to rural areas, back to darkness, back to wasting our lives in water queues, back to fires, back to development organised through the barrel of a gun and not negotiation.
After another of our comrades had his home in Kennedy Road destroyed in bright sunlight yesterday we went to the police and we insisted that we must be allowed to lay a charge. It is case number: 380/11/2009 We invite the media to monitor the investigation of this case. We all need to educate ourselves about the political realities of our country.
All we want is justice.
For further information and comment please contact:
Mama Mkhize 076 579 6198 (isiZulu)
Mazwi Nzimande 074 222 8601 (English/isiZulu)
Mama Nxumalo 076 333 9386 (isiZulu)