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Anti-Eviction Campaign mass meeting tear-gassed and leaders arrested February 10, 2009

Posted by Andreas in activism, Cape Town, Politics, Press Release, Society, South Africa.
Gugulethu Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement
Sunday 8 February, 2009

Earlier today, Gugulethu SAPS burst into an Anti-Eviction Campaign mass meeting, tear-gassed and beat residents, and then arrested two AEC leaders, Mncedisi Twalo and Mbulelo Zuba.

The background to the incident is that AEC members from Gugulethu, Nyanga, Langa and Mannenberg were holding their weekly meeting at the Gugulethu Sports Complex. The complex is a community centre and is the one place that is always open and accessible to community members. Every single Sunday at 14h00, AEC members hold mass meetings to discuss housing and other social-welfare related issues that are important to township residents.

Today, there were about 1,000 people at the meeting to discuss community issues. This was also the final day of voter registration by the IEC. According to Nomthandazo Nciyabo, a local resident, the AEC held their meeting in one hall while the IEC held their registration drive in the other hall in the complex. However, local ANC councillor Belinda Landingwe, ANC Provincial Chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha, and about 50 ANC members were present at the Independent Electoral Commission registration. Some residents claim that the reason the ANC bigwigs were present was not only to help register potential ANC supporters, but also to prevent non-ANC voters from registering.  There seems to be teeth to the claim the the IEC is controlled by the ANC.

Still, the AEC went about its mass meeting which had nothing to do with the presence of the IEC. However, at about 16h00, scores of police suddenly arrived and disrupted the AEC meeting. According to Nomthandazo, police attempted to lock residents inside the hall and then proceeded to spray tear gas at the hundreds of men, women and children who were present. Community members ran for their lives leaving behind purses, cell phones and even ID books which are now nowhere to be found. Many residents were beaten with police batons, including Nomthandazo’s 9 year old boy who now has a big lump on his back..

Residents insist that they overheard Landingwe, the ANC councillor, calling the police. This, they explain, is the reason the police came to terrorise residents and immediately arrest AEC leaders Mncedisi Twalo and Mbulelo Zuba. According to Nomthandazo, they had severely beaten Mncedisi before arresting him and Mbulelo. This is not the first time local politicians have used the police to intimidate residents. In fact, it is widely known that Landingwe has a grudge against Mncedisi and other residents for their persistent activism.

The Anti-Eviction Campaign has not heard from Mncedisi since his phone was confiscated at the Gugulethu police station. The families of both activists are extremely worried about their well-being but look forward to their court appearance tomorrow morning in Athlone to set the record straight. Residents will also be there to support their fellow comrades.

For more information about the incident, contact Nomthandazo Nciyabo at 072-3272-813 (isiXhosa only) or contact Thelma Twalo (Mncedisi’s Aunt) at 021-6372-403.

For comment on party politics, police repression and how it effects communities struggling for change, contact Ashraf Cassiem at 076-1861-408

Gugulethu AEC Press Update
Monday 9 February, 2009

Today, Mncedisi Twalo and Mbulelo Zuba appeared in Athlone Magistrate Court on charges relating to obstructing IEC voter registration.  They have now been released on 500 Rand bail and the case has been postponed until the 10th of March.  They have told us that they spent almost 24 hours without food and water – Gugulethu police seemed to be punishing the two leaders.

Unfortunately, we cannot quote the two activists due to the pending trial.  However, as residents, we would like make clear the following facts:

  1. The AEC and the IEC in Gugulethu were and are on amicable terms. We had negotiated with the IEC on the shared use of the Sports Complex and everything was peaceful.  IEC officials present at the complex will agree that residents did not obstruct any registration from taking place.  To confirm this, contact Pule (number below) and he will connect you with an IEC official who was present the entire time.
  2. ANC provincial chairperson Mcebisi Skwatsha and councillor Belinda Landingwe called the police and told them to attack residents during their meetings.  They also told police to arrest Mncedisi and Mbulelo.
  3. Police came and immediately attacked residents without warning. Thousands of residents were present, many were tear gassed, others were beaten (including a 9 year old child).
  4. Residents lost phones, IDs, purses and the AEC committee lost over 2,000 Rand which they had been collecting to buy T-shirts for residents.  We think that the money and items became spoils of war divided among police officers.

Residents are angry and claim that their right to freedom of expression, freedom to meet, and freedom not to vote, have been infringed upon.  They feel intimidated by the ANC and the police and they demand an investigation take place as to the ANC’s illegal actions against non-ANC residents in Gugulethu.

For more information, contact Pule at 073 6448 919 and Lenox at 073 4684 902.

For legal comment, contact Ashraf at 076 1861 408.



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