Freedom News

Justice delayed and denied for Abahlali baseMjondolo

Freedom continues its coverage of Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African movement of shack dwellers who organise land occupations and communes:

The attempt by the local ANC – working with the police, private security, the anti-land invasion unit and forces within the prosecuting authority – to destroy the eKhenana Commune has been relentless. The attacks on the Commune have included assassinations, assaults, illegal and violent evictions, vandalism, arson, repeated arrests on bogus charges and continual online slander from fake Facebook accounts, including two fake Facebook pages.

Three comrades have been assassinated this year: Ayanda Ngila, Nokuthula Mabaso and Lindokuhle Mnguni. The arrests on bogus charges, followed by the denial of bail and then, after as long as six months in prison, the dropping of charges, continue. On 17 November Maphiwe Gasela, Landu Tshazi and Sniko Miya, who have all been previously arrested on bogus charges that were later withdrawn, were arrested again

Even though they handed themselves over to the police on 17 November they were not given bail the following day. The bail application was set for 13 December but was postponed again. Our three leaders were then supposed to appear in court on 20 December for a bail hearing but the prosecutor and the clerk of the court were not present at court. This led to the bail hearing being postponed for the third time. It was also said that the affidavit from the investigation officer was not clear and that the he must come to court to explain it. Once again our comrades were kept in prison and denied their right to request bail.

They appeared again on 21 December and the IO was asked to explain his affidavit. He made wildly untrue, ridiculous and defamatory statements about our movement – statements made, of course, with no evidence. The bail application was then adjourned till 29 December.  This is the fourth adjournment. Our comrades have now been in prison on a new set of trumped up charges for more than a month without being able to have a bail hearing.

As the well known saying goes: Justice delayed is justice denied. 

We all know that when it comes to the poor the justice system never works. Poor people do not get fair treatment throughout the process that leads from arrests to prison, and the prisons are full of poor people. If you are a poor person in a radical movement, a poor person insisting on your dignity and your right to live a safe, decent and meaningful life the situation is much, much worse. From the police to the prosecuting authority to the judiciary you are very likely to face a wall of contempt. Rights protected on paper will not be given to you in reality.

We all know that when members of the political elite are plainly guilty of real crimes they are seldom arrested. On the rare occasions when they are arrested they always get bail straight away. Yet our comrades must be denied their right to have a bail hearing and kept in prison over Christmas after being arrested on more bogus charges.

They are in one of most dangerous prisons in the country, Westville prison.

While we face attacks and repression from all angles –  including the police, the prosecuting authority and the judiciary – we have also received solidarity from many organisations.

The Commune has recently been recognised by the Southern Africa Human Defenders Network as the Human Right Defender of the Year. The award comes with incentives that are going to be used to grow the Commune. This include buying manure for the Communal garden, more chickens that will lay eggs and equipment for the Communal Kitchen.

We continue to receive support from progressive popular organisations like Pudemo, Numsa, the Congolese Solidarity Campaign and the MST. We have also received support from the Kairos Center in New York and the more than 300 organisations around the world who are part of the Economic Social and Cultural Rights Network. 

This solidarity has been very important in drawing attention to the ongoing repression and in helping to build pressure on the South African government to act to stop the repression. Solidarity gives us strength.

The ANC government are hypocrites. They present themselves as the leaders of a country that takes human rights seriously while they continue to violate the dignity and lives of the poor. The ANC has never been a party for the poor. It has always suppressed us. The ANC are our oppressors.

Land & Dignity!

Image: Abahlali baseMjondolo movement

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