Freedom News

Statement on the police killing of Karabo Chaka

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

On Monday 31 July, a road blockade – the strike of the poor – was organised by residents of the Slovo Park settlement in the south of Johannesburg to demand that the City keep its promises and adhere to its legal obligations. The protestors blocked the N12 highway for more than six hours. The police responded with violence, taking the life of Karabo Chaka (16).

Karabo Chaka was shot dead by the police while in the yard of his family home in Slovo Park. We would like to express our deepest condolences to his family and all who knew and loved him. We would also like to express our solidarity with the Slovo Park community.

The Slovo Park community has been engaging the City of Johannesburg for thirty years, often assisted by progressive lawyers and policy experts like the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) and Comrade Professor Marie Huchzermeyer. In 2016, the High Court ordered the City of Johannesburg to upgrade the settlement; however, this has not happened, and in the seven years since then, many children have died due to falling into pit latrines or coming into contact with live electricity cables. A political party, a state and a society that leaves children to die are an insult to the humanity and dignity of the poor. 

We have also experienced police killings during protests. On 30 September 2013, Nqobile Nzuza (17) was shot dead by the police in Cato Crest, Durban, during a protest. Like Karabo Chaka, the police shot her in the back of the head. On 29 May 2017, Baby Jayden Khoza (two weeks old) died after inhaling tear gas when police attacked the Foreman Road settlement in Durban when protestors fleeing a police attack on the road took refuge in the settlement. On 29 July 2021, Zamekile Shangase (33) was shot dead by the police in Asiyindawo, Lamontville, after people began to protest the police stealing their food in a ‘show your receipt’ raid. 

All across the country, impoverished communities risk death when they take to the streets, and it has been many years since it was reported that the police had killed more than a hundred people during protests. This figure did not include the lives lost during the strike at Marikana. 

In the United States and France, vast numbers of people take to the streets to protest against police murders and killings. Here there is mostly silence. There are no mass protests. The lives of poor black people do not count in this society. The contempt for our lives and dignity is pervasive.

A state that murders its people has no right to rule. We are confronting a brutal state that vandalises the lives of the poor and then rules us with violence. Bheki Cele runs a police force that is a clear and present danger to poor black people, a police force that is only good at killing and violating the poor. It is a fact that people live in fear of the police. 

Even when the poor only cry for essential services such as water and sanitation – necessities – they are met with violent repression. Of course, our struggle for land and dignity is also repressed with assassinations by the izinkabi. As everyone knows, 25 lives have been taken during our struggle.

The ANC impoverishes us and then manages our impoverishment with violence from the police, land invasion units, private security companies and izinkabi. They are our enemy, the enemy of every real democrat and everyone who believes in the equality of all human beings and the value of all human lives. A party that runs a government that regularly murders poor and working class people, including the Marikana massacre and the murders by the police and army during the Covid lockdowns, is the enemy of the people.

It is time that we stop complaining about how the ANC steals from us, impoverishes us and rules us with an iron fist. We must get rid of it. We need to organise, build popular democratic power, build a political instrument for that popular democratic power and build a peaceful society in which every life matters. 

The lives and dignity of the poor cannot tolerate the ANC a moment longer.

Land & Dignity!

Image: Unathi dodo / CC BY-SA 3.0 / Joe Slovo Park, Sinenjongo High School playground

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