Monday, November 14, 2005
Police brutally supress peaceful housing demonstration
At noon today at the Foreman Road settlement in Clare Estate, Durban, police attacked a peaceful demonstration of settlement dwellers from around the muncipality. Dozens have been arrested. As of 2:30pm, police had surrounded the Foreman Road settlement and blocked both exits. No one is being allowed in or out. Shots have been heard, and there are reports that anyone attempting to leave the settlement is being fired upon. Eyewitness reports suggest many injuries due to rubber bullets.
The elected committee of Abahlali base Mjondolo, a shack dwellers movement with 16 affiliated settlements, followed due procedure in attempting to gain permission for the march. The city council, however, illegally denied the application (see letter below from the Freedom of Expression Institute for details). At 11am, the majority of the 3000-strong crowd decided to march to the nearby Asherville sports field. This was a route recommended by the Mayor’s office at a meeting on Friday, 11 November, in the Mayor’s presence.
Initially, the march proceeded peacefully up Loon Road. At the top of the road, marchers were met by a police cordon at the intersection of Loon Road and Locksley Road. At least 2000 people were up against the police barrier. Witnesses did not observe the mandatory five-minute warning being given before police charged the crowd with riot shields, backed up by riot trucks, plucking individuals at random for arrest. The crowd fled back down Loon Road, towards Foreman Road settlement.
Police officers chased the marchers into the Foreman Road settlement, firing rubber bullets, charging with batons, and arresting protesters in the process. Witnesses saw cameras, phones and money taken from protestors by the police. Five people were arrested at the front line and approximately 10-15 later minutes at least one more van left the scene, filled with arrested protestors; as of 2pm, a total of 13 people were detained at Sydenham Police Station, though witnesses have seen more police vans filled with people from informal settlements. It is possible that they are being held at other police stations.
One of the first arrestees was System Cele, a 19 year-old elected committee member from nearby Kennedy Road settlement, attending the march with her young baby. She was seen in good health as she was arrested and marched to a police van. She reported that police pushed her around, demanding that she reveal S’bu Zikode as the person making people march. When she said that there were people marching all over the world, and that S’bu could not be inciting them all, they assaulted her, and in the process broke her teeth on the pavement, necessitating dental treatment. As Ms. Cele pointed out, S’bu and other leadership had told those gathered that the march would be illegal, and had advised that there would be consequences, but no one could have foreseen the ferocity of the police response.
The quarantine of the Foreman Road settlement continues. At one point, an effigy of Mayor Mlaba was burned in front of the police, giving off black, oily smoke.
The March on Mayor Mlaba was organised by the Foreman Road Development Committee to demand land and housing in the city and to protest against forced removals and the ongoing removal of basic services from shack settlements. It was decided to march under the slogan of No Land, No House, No Vote. On Wednesday, 9 November more than 5 000 people attended a mass rally in support of the march in the Foreman Road settlement.
Media coverage of on-going events at Foreman Road is urgently needed; please contact those listed below for comment. Bail funds are also needed; contact Fazel Khan (084 577 8627) for details. Finally, please email City Manager Mike Sutcliffe firstname.lastname@example.org to protest the brutal suppression of today's march.
For print quality photos, go to Indymedia South Africa at one, two and three or contact Raj Patel email@example.com or Richard Ballard firstname.lastname@example.org 083 789 7108
For comment please contact:
Mnikelo Ndabankulu, Foreman Road Development Committee, 07356565241
Lungisani Jama, Foreman Road Development Committee, 0822595443
Nonhlanla Mzobe, Kennedy Road Development Committee, 0826892606
Angelina Mosiea, Quarry Road Development Committee, 0762921833
S'bu Zikode, Chair, Abahlali base Mjondolo, 0835470474
Simon Delany, Freedom of Expression Institute, 0833970057
Raj Patel, Centre for Civil Society, UKZN, 0824724937
Fazel Khan, Social Policy Programme, UKZN, 0845778627
Background info here. Another eyewitness account from Alan Murphy. And an update.