27th February 2015
PRESS STATEMENT: UNITED FRONT CALLS FOR ACTION AGAINST GAUTENG POLICE FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST THEMBELIHLE AND TSAKANE PROTESTORS
The United Front in the Gauteng province is angered at the tragedy that is unfolding in Thembelihle (south-west of Johannesburg) and Extension 6 in Tsakane (East Rand). We strongly condemn the South African Police Services for their undemocratic violent repression of these protests. Police action has led to at least two deaths and wrongful arrests. All this underlines the urgency of the need for sustained mass action to stop police brutality. As the United Front, we will intensify our efforts to build for 21 March (Human Rights/Sharpeville Day) as the Day of National Action Against Police Brutality.
From Monday morning, residents of Thembelihle have been protesting over water service delivery and housing. In Tsakane, the people were protesting against the forcible disconnection of illegal electricity connections. The Ekurhuleni municipality used the paramilitary Red Ants private security group to remove the connections.
In response to the invasion by the Red Ants, members of the community protested in an attempt to defend women and children who were assaulted by the Red Ants. Instead of calming the situation, the police chased the protesters to the Duduza taxi rank where they opened fire. Two school children were shot: one is dead, the other critically injured. Electricity is a fundamental and basic right. How can the police kill unarmed and innocent school children, and violently repress people who demand electricity? This is completely unacceptable.
A growing number of people have been arrested in Thembelihle (34 people had been arrested by 22h30 last night) and Tsakane (15 were due to appear in court). Some of these were arrested when they were merely attempting to talk with the SAPS station commander. There are also allegations among those present that the police have been using live ammunition.
As the United Front, we call for the immediate release of all those arrested and the withdrawal of the repressive charges of public violence. We call on the public to call the Commander of the Johannesburg Central Police Station (Commissioner Ngwako Mashao) on 082 212 6518 to demand the release of the arrested protesters. They have been unfairly charged with public violence. This is unjust and seeks to intimidate the mass of the people from continuing with the protests. We demand their immediate release.
A number of injured protesters in Thembelihle have been admitted at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where it will be ascertained whether their wounds are from live ammunition.
The United Front calls on activists and other organisations to join the communities of Tsakane of Thembelihle as they continue to meet today and over the weekend, and as they continue with protests. As soon as more information is available, the UF will announce more details for sustained solidarity action in support of the families of the deceased, in solidarity with the injured and the arrested, to protest against police brutality and state violence, and to support the struggles of the Thembelihle and Tsakane communities. The community of Thembelihle is now consulting lawyers to secure the release of the arrested comrades and to consider further legal action.
The protests in Thembelihle and Tsakane represent political demands for service delivery and accountability from the people. These protests are not a security question. We therefore call on the elected politicians and employed pubic servants to meet the needs of the people instead of turning these demands into a security concern.
FOR COMMENTS AND MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
1. City Mokaba (United Front Gauteng Chairperson) – 083 584 4827;
2. Siyabonga Mbuqe (UF Gauteng Provincial Committee member) – 072 623 0279); and
3. Mzwonke Mayekiso (UF Gauteng Organiser) – 074 991 6202.