on behalf of the community of Mandela Park
Update: 23h00 on 20 September 2009
What we know now:
- 23 residents of Mandela Park were arrested by police today
- All 23 activists will appear in Khayelitsha Magistrates Court at 09h00 tomorrow morning (21 September).
- Residents will protest outside the court until their neighbours are freed
- The senior prosecutor and the commissioner of Harare Police Station refused to let any of the 23 residents out on police bail even though they all agreed there was no risk in doing so.
This morning 23 Mandela Park activists were arrested on their way to speak at a local radio station after Helen Zille refused to address their anger at Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela for lying to residents (see previous press statement for details).
Police arrested residents and proceeded to fabricate a lengthly lie that all 23 residents were caught vandalising the empty government houses. We assume that police did this because they were pressured into arresting someone for yesterday’s civil disobedience protest. Since they couldn’t find the perpetrators, the just picked off the 23 activists who, walking in a group, were an easy target.
Pressure from protesting residents helps those arrested:
At about noon, almost 100 residents of Mandela Park converged on Harare Police Station to pressure them into throwing out the case. Residents were joined in solidarity by members of the Anti-Eviction Campaign and Abahlali baseMjondolo. Eventually, the pressure proved fruitful and activists were able to meet with Station Commissioner Tobias. During the first meeting, he was curt and somewhat rude to community leaders. However, after continued pressure and toyi-toying by residents, during the second and third meetings Tobias was more friendly and placed the blame on the Senior Prosecutor Mr Isaacs who, he said, denied them bail that day and required that they be in court the next day at 9am.
It is clear that the mass protest outside Harare Police Station helped make sure that residents were not stuck in jail until Tuesday or even Wednesday. In a change of tack, Commissioner Tobias mentioned how he “feels for residents of Mandela Park who live in a hokkie [shack] and see nice houses being built right in front of them only to see those houses go to someone else”. He said of the 23 activists: “these people is not criminals who stay in there” and that he wants them out so that he can focus on the real criminals.
Despite such corroborative language, Tobias continued to blame the Senior Prosecutor for refusing to let out the 23 protesters. When residents again complained about the serious health issues of some of those arrested and the fact that some of the women had 3-6 month old children, Tobias again said he’d love to let all of them out but that the Prosecutor would not allow him to do so.
A short history of Mandela Park protests:
Even though we are merely fighting for our right to housing that has already been promised to us, we are the ones criminalised again and again by the corrupt cops of Harare Police Station.
It began when we first rose up as a community in 2003 where many of our leaders were arrested, beaten and sent to Pollsmoor. In 2003, we also held mass rallies supporting our fellow residents who had been wrongfully arrested. For a full history, see this report written by Professor Martin Legassick.
Police abuse of Mandela Park residents has continued since then. Recently, just over a week ago, 53 residents were arrested in Mandela Park for protesting the new Khayelitsha Hospital. Says one resident: “there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people in Khayelitsha but the people from the community are not getting employed” by this hospital.
Again, today, Mandela Park residents have been arrested on false charges. But when will corrupt cops be brought to the book for their lies? Why do the poorest of the poor always get arrested when they protest injustice while the people committing the actual crimes against us go free?
As a community, we will appear en-mass tomorrow at 9am outside Khayelitsh Magistrates Court to protest the wrongful arrest of our neighbours.
For more information, contact Mabhuti at 082-997-8475 or Sluja 071-433-1101
You can also try Loyiso who is among the 23 residents arrested at 083-270-2000 or 073-766-2078