South Africa: ANC deploys Apartheid-era tactics against land occupation

The eThekwini Municipality is expecting delivery of four Casspirs – armoured vehicles originally deployed during Apartheid to repress black communities, and now being used to repress political land occupations, reports Abahlali baseMjondolo.

Last week the news was full of reports on the arrival of the arrival of three of the four Casspirs that have been ordered by the eThekwini Municipality.  We first heard about the order of the Casspirs in 2017 when it was reported that the Municipality was ordering four Casspirs at a cost of R23.8 million (£1.37m) due to the “escalation” of what they call “service delivery protests” and “land grabs” or “land invasions”.

This week we were told that Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer was “elated” at their arrival and that they would be used against “protests and land grabs”. The cost is now reported to be R27m.

We read that “They are air-conditioned and officers can access the roof via hatches and shoot through holes cut into the glass” and that “Fawzia Peer believes that the arrival of multimillion-rand Casspirs will strengthen the city’s fight against land invasions and protests”.

Casspirs are a form of armoured vehicle that were developed for the apartheid military. They were first used in the wars in Namibia and Angola, and then used against the uprising against apartheid in the townships.

We should only see Casspirs in the Apartheid Museum. The decision to bring them back to use them against protests and land occupations is disgraceful.

The ANC already mobilises all kinds of violence against us in Durban using the izinkabi, the Anti-Land Invasions Unit, Municipal security guards and two police forces. Our members, and other people engaged in protest and direct action, are regularly wounded, maimed and killed.

If the ANC had any real progressive commitments they would see protests as a democratic question and engage them as an opportunity for discussion. They would see the land question as a question of justice, understand land occupations as land reform from below and work to put the social value of land before its commercial value.

But, instead, they want to respond to our organisation against our systematic exclusion and impoverishment with military force using the same tools as the apartheid state. They want to repress rather than to engage the struggles of the oppressed.

The ANC talks about land reform will violently attacking land occupations. The expect impoverished and working class people to vote for them while they prevent us from building democracy from below and exercising basic democratic rights like the right to protest.

The old Casspirs did not stop the struggle against apartheid. The new Casspirs will not stop the struggle for land and dignity.


Pic: A Casspir at the South African Police Museum in Pretoria, by Boris Gorelik