Thembelihle residents to picket against “state of emergency”

The Citizen

3 April 2015 10.52 am

Following violent protests in Thembelihle informal settlement near Lenasia last month, residents led by the Thembelihle Crisis Committee will picket today against the undeclared, unofficial state of emergency experienced in the area.

According to the Right2Know campaign (R2K), the police “siege from 25 February involved deployment of various heavily armed police units including, Johannesburg Metro Police Department, Tactical Response Team, Crime Intelligence Unit over and above the Public Order Policing Unit amongst others.”

“During the clampdown, gross human rights violations have been experienced in the very same month marked for the celebration of human rights,” said R2K.

This has led to the picket which will take place opposite the police station in Lenasia, south of Johannesburg.

“The community feels strongly that the SAPS should account for their transgressions and the picket will serve as a stepping stone towards a broader campaign to have those responsible brought to account for such unwarranted actions,” R2K added.

The picket will be supported by the R2K, the United Front and the Democratic Left Front.

“The siege will not stop the determination of Thembelihle residents to have the Gauteng MEC for Housing come to our community and account as per his long-promised commitments,” the crisis committee said.

FILE PICTURE: Protesting Thembelihle residents throw stones at the police as members of the SAPS and JMPD attempt to disperse them, 26 February 2015. Thembelihle residents took to the streets after a Lenasia man shot two protesters on Wednesday night who were threatening to burn electricity boxes in the suburb. The man was arrested. Twenty protesters were later arrested for public violence. Picture: Michel Bega

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Press Statement: End the de facto State of Emergency in Themelihle

31st March 2015

The Thembelihle Crisis Committee, the United Front (UF), the Right to Know (R2K) Campaign and the Democratic Left Front call on all people of good conscience in South Africa to endorse the call for an end to the security siege of Thembelihle. Since the 25th of February 2015, Thembelihle has faced a de facto State of Emergency at the hands of the South African Police Services (SAPS) and other security agents. This undeclared, unofficial State of Emergency in Thembelihle is an attack on all our constitutionally guaranteed rights to and freedoms to organise, associate and freely express ourselves. We call for urgent action to put pressure on the SAPS to end the siege. We call for the creation of conducive conditions for free, open and democratic political activity in which the people of Thembelihle may express and exercise their right to protest, and have their demands for a decent life of dignity met.

We call for concrete and active solidarity with the people of Thembelihle. We call on all to join tomorrow’s Mass Solidarity Meeting (1st April 2015) to end the siege in Thembelihe which will held from 5pm at the “Park Station” community meeting area in Thembelihle.

For many years, the Thembelihle informal settlement (adjacent to Lenasia south-west of Johannesburg) has been a site of unyielding struggles for basic services of housing, water, sanitation and electricity. These are basic needs promised by our country’s constitution. Yet with every struggle the ANC government has never bothered to meet the demands of this community. Instead, it has increasingly opted to use the police as its response.

Since the 25th of February, Thembelihle has seen widespread deployment of heavily armed SAPS members and other security agents to patrol the township. In effect, Thembelihle is living through an undeclared, and therefore illegal State of Emergency due to the SAPS-led security operation with many local leaders in hiding as a result causing incalculable harm and trauma to them and their families. Gatherings of more than three people are broken up and there is harassment of individual activists.

On 25th February 2015, 36 people were arrested with a further 36 arrested a few days later. Of these 17 have been charged and the others released. The 17 facing charges have been granted R1,000 bail each. The DLF has contributed money to bail out two. For the second set of people arrested, R2K Gauteng contributed bail for 4 of them. Another two have been bailed by their families. There are still six who need bail money. Another six have been denied bail and remain in custody due to their being in South Africa ‘illegally’.

All these underline the fact that the Thembelihle crisis is a national emergency. The TCC, the UF, R2K and the DLF firmly believe that the Thembelihle siege represents one of the most severe cases demonstrating that the ANC government is now prepared to use repression and police brutality to stamp out social protest. cases of systematic and sustained police repression against public protest in our post-apartheid democratic South Africa. This is part of the ruling elite’s increasing securotisation of political, social and economic demands of the mass of the people that it has proved incapable and unwilling to resolve. As stated above, the Thembelihle siege goes against everything in a democratic society promised by the 1996 Constitution.

The TCC, UF, R2K and DLF also call on the public to make donations to set up a Legal Defence Fund to raise money for bail and other legal costs immediately for the Thembelihle comrades in custody and other activists who are facing and will face similar repression and action from the police. Donations may be made to this account:
• Account holder: The Right 2 Know
• Bank: Standard Bank
• Account Number: 07 022 865 5
• Branch Code: 020909
• Reference: Thembelihle Legal Defence

Needless to say, this de facto State of Emergency has effectively removed attention away from the service delivery and housing process, and has turned political demands into a security question.

End the siege of Thembelihle!

FOR COMMENTS, CONTACT:
Siphiwe Segodi – Thembelihle Crisis Committee – 072 655 4177
Mzwonke Mayekiso – United Front Organiser – 074 991 6202
Godfrey Phiri – R2K National Working Group – 078 733 1236
Rehad Desai – Democratic Left Front – 0839979204

DLF Demands End to Police Violence

Press Statement
By Democratic Left Front
Tsakane and Thembelihle Protests, Arrests and Deaths

Dated: 26 February 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Two separate incidents broke out yesterday, 25th February, one in Tsakane on the Far East Rand and the other in Thembelihle informal settlement on the West Rand. In both cases people have lost their lives and many have been arrested.

In Tsakane, Red Ants, backed up by police, entered the area on Wednesday 25th  and began to disconnect illegal electricity connections. In the process several women and children were beaten and a crowd gathered, angered by the violence.

The police chased people to Duduza Taxi Rank, one of the busiest taxi ranks in the Far East Rand, where they opened fire with rubber bullets. Two school children were shot: one is dead, the other critically injured.

Fifteen people have been arrested. Some of them were not part of the protest, including two nurses (still in uniform) who were on their way home . Those arrested will appear in Tsakane Magistrates Court on Friday 27.

In Thembelihle, one man lost his life and four others were injured on Thursday morning when a Lenasia resident, opened fire from his front garden, spraying live bullets into a crowd that had gathered to protest over lack of housing.

The protests continued into the night and throughout Thursday 26th February. The numbers of arrests currently stand at 34, including six children. One of the women arrested was shot in the back at point blank range by a police rubber bullet. She is now in hospital. Those arrested are to be charged with public violence and likely to appear in Lenasia Magistrate Court on Monday morning. Lawyers from the Socio Economic Rights Institute are representing those arrested.

The protest began on Monday morning at 4am following a decision made at a community meeting the previous day (Sunday).  On Tuesday 24th, the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, an affiliate of the DLF, met with a representative of the housing department and appealed to him to come and address the community. When this request was refused, residents called a mass meeting where it was decided to organize a peaceful protest.  But, as has been the case across the country, the police violently disrupted the protest, triggering mayhem in the community.

Fighting between the police and the community continues on Thursday night and there are reports of several people being shot with rubber bullets. Many of those arrested are community leaders, people who play an advocacy role and restore calm to a community that is desperate to be heard.

A few days ago a handful of residents attacked foreign-owned shops in the area. The TCC which helped organize an anti-xenophobia public meeting a few weeks ago, intervened to stop these attacks. Now the leaders of this organization are being arrested by the police.  The TCC has been clear that it is the local municipality that has left people in a state of desperation.

We demand:

An end to police violence against poor communities and their organisations.

The immediate release of those detained.

That the police charge the Lenasia resident accused of shooting and killing protesters.

 For further information contact:

Tsakane: Tebza  082 401 9185

Thembelihle: Siphiwe  076 250 1618

UF Calls for Action against Gauteng Police

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.

Thembalilhle residents protest

All the residents of Thembelihle want is a better life for the community.

Yet it seems, despite their best efforts to follow procedure, they are stymied at every turn. “We met with the Gauteng MEC of Human Settlements Jacob Mamabolo last year in November,” said Siphiwe Segodi, secretary of the Thembelihle Crisis Committee.

To reach his house, one has to travel on rough, lumpy dirt roads with no street lighting.

The tension in the township is obvious following a day of violent protests.

Children have been kept out of schools and at least one foreign national shopkeeper looted and chased from the area.

At 8pm last night, Segodi was waiting for word about a meeting to decide if the hostilities would continue through the night, or if there would be a cease-fire until 10am this morning, when Mamabolo would hopefully show up.

“He made commitments to us last year,” said Segodi.

“He agreed to a timeline to deal with our issues, he committed to providing us with an agreement in black and white. Since then there has been nothing. There has been no tangible progress, nothing has transpired.”

Sitting erect, proudly, in his chair, Segodi’s shoulders slumped a little when he said Mamabolo had made liars of the committee.

“We came back to the community, we praised him, we said to them, “Here is a man who listened to us”. He came across as honourable, but we have been very disappointed,” Segodi said.

Thembelihle is a common South African story. Tiny houses make do with communal taps, stolen electricity, tiny matchbox houses, and outside toilets.

 

Inside, Segodi’s house sparkles, his furniture has seen better days, but the aspiration for a better life shows in the satellite connection and flat screen television. Tuned into a news channel, he clicks his tongue appreciatively when Thembelihle is mentioned on the screen.

“When we had our meeting on Sunday, we said there must be no looting. How does one man affect the economy of the area? Our children missed school, we are not proud of that. But by ignoring us, the MEC is forcing us into this state.”

And it is a state. The embers of burnt tyres flicker in the darkness, the occasional flames lighting the devastation of concrete blocks, rocks, bricks, boulders and whatever else lay close to hand when protesters started blocking the roads.

“If we didn’t phone the MEC, he would never contact us. He said he would come back to us before his office closed last year. We are still waiting.”
Today, Segodi hopes the MEC will make finally make good on his word.

 

Residents march through the streets while some set up barricades, 23 February 2015, in Thembelihle near Lenasia, Johannesburg. Protesters took to the streets when Traditional Affairs and Human Settlement MEC Jacob Mamabolo failed to respond to a march the informal settlement hosted last year. Picture: Alaister Russell

 

Thembelihle Resident Shot During Protest Dies

JOHANNESBURG – A Thembelihle resident, shot during a demonstration in the informal settlement this week, has died and the man who allegedly killed him is due to appear in court this morning.

The 33-year-old man died in hospital overnight.

He was allegedly shot by a Lenasia resident who opened fire on protesters.

It’s believed the group was trying to set an electrical box on fire and blocked parts of the K68 road near the Lenasia Medi-Clinic.

Earlier on Thursday a small group of protesters also tried to petrol bomb a house in Lenasia.

Dozens of people have been arrested since Monday, when the community first started blocking roads and calling for formal electricity connections.

Thembelihle resident Asana Ali says the protests are likely to continue until power boxes are installed.

“These police, they want people just to be quiet but now people can’t cook, we can’t find any food. We don’t want cars passing here because we want to call for government to sort out this problem.”

On Thursday, police arrested at least 20 people in the township.

Amid the deadly ongoing protest in Thembelihle, Gauteng MEC for Community Safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, says negotiations need to be opened to evacuate the informal settlement once and for all because it’s been built on dolomitic land and cannot be developed.

The MEC has described this week’s violent clashes between protesters and police there as utter lawlessness and has condemned the stoning of passing cars.

Nkosi-Malobane says residents have been fighting among each other over access to services.

“Make sure that that area is completely closed down and those people are taken to proper houses where there are sufficient services for them in order to avoid situations where they fight with their neighbours in order to access services.”

(Edited by Tamsin Wort)

Police have once again used tear gas and rubber bullets in Thembelihle where a small group of people have tried to burn down the house of a man alleged to have shot at protestors on 25 February 2015. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN