The justice system continues to fail us in eKhenana

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Source: Abahlali baseMjondolo

On the 23rd of November the Cato Manor police finally arrested three of the six people who are widely understood to be responsible for burning down of the houses of two women leaders of Abahlali in eKhenana.

Nkosingiphile Nsele, Sibusiso Mdluli and Mthandeni Mfeka were arrested on the 23rd November and appeared at the Durban Magistrate Court on the 25th November. They were granted bail of R2 000 each.

There are very clear double standards at play from the prosecuting authority in Durban. Our members have repeatedly been arrested on bogus charges and repeatedly denied bail. Two comrades spent two weeks in the notorious and very dangerous Westville Prison and three comrades spent six months there. When our members have been granted bail, the bail conditions have always prevented them from returning to their homes in eKhenana. The result is that, as well as imposing a serious personal cost on people, the bail conditions have also, at different times, removed ten key leaders from the occupation and prevented them from continuing with their activism.

Burning down people’s homes is a very serious case. Here a real crime was committed and it is widely understood who the perpetrators are. The arrests are a breakthrough because they mean that there is no longer complete impunity for the ANC.  However, the blatant double standards and inconsistencies from the Prosecuting Authority in Durban remain a grave concern given that when it comes to the local ANC their members are granted bail on their first appearance, and the bail conditions do not prevent them from returning to eKhenana.

When the three returned to eKhenana on Monday they were frightening people with gun shots and were seen in KwaKito (the Cato Manor police station) to meet with the investigating officer.

Organised waves of repression are not only carried out by violence from the state and the ANC. They are also accompanied by the circulation of slander and fake news. This is also part of the repressive strategy in this case. There have been many Facebook accounts without a single previous post or a single ‘friend’ that have been posting pro-ANC propaganda.

The ongoing attack on the commune has had a negative impact on the food sovereignty project, which has managed to feed the poor families in the community. It has led to the many of our leaders being displaced from their homes. The criminalisation of the commune has meant that families that relied on it for survival are now going to sleep without food because what was their only hope is now destroyed by those who want to follow the usual ANC model of allowing local party leaders to turn shack settlements into personal profit-making schemes.

We have always held to the principle that the social value of land must come before its commercial value, and that land must be used for living and for people to grow food. We continue to support our community to works the land.

We will ensure that the commune in eKhenana is not destroyed by the ANC.

The misuse of the criminal justice system to attack autonomous organisation from below is not something new. The same thing happened in Kennedy Road in 2009 when the ANC said that the movement was ‘running its own authority’ by building our own political organisation and running our own projects such as a drop-in centre that took care of child-headed homes. The leaders of our movement in the settlement, including the organizers of the drop-in centre, were attacked, and their homes ransacked by people in the ANC. Instead of arresting those who committed these crimes, the police arrested members of our movement, criminalising our movement.

The ANC has always seen the self-organisation of the poor as criminal acts. When the poor occupy land for living and survival, the ANC sees this as crime.

We continue to support all communal projects that seek to feed the poor. We continue to fight against any form of eviction and displacement that render the poor homeless. We remain committed to our principle that the social value of land must come before its commercial value. We will continue to support progressive forces that occupy land for living and creating food sustainability.

Occupy. Resist. Grow. Develop.

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