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