Five more Landless People’s Movement militants arrested in Soweto

Submitted by red jack on Jun 4 2010 14:30

The crackdown on the Landless People's Movement in Johannesburg continues. Two LPM militants have been killed in recent days, and ten are currently in prison following the arrests of five others last night.

Friday, 04 June 2010

Landless People’s Movement Press Statement

The Attack on the Landless People’s Movement Continues
Five More Have Been Arrested in Protea South

On the night of 3 June 2010, police and an informer went from door to door in the shacks of Protea South, Soweto. They arrested five members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM). Three of the arrested are children of Maureen Mnisi, chairperson of the LPM in Gauteng, and the other two are her neighbors.

Two people have been killed since the current wave of repression, which began 23 May 2010 when the LPM was attacked by the Homeowner’s Association in Protea South. . One was shot dead by the Homeowner’s Association in Protea South, and one was shot dead by the police in eTwatwa.

Seven LPM members are now in jail in Protea South and thee LPM members in jail in eTwatwa. Others have been beaten, shot, arrested or received threats that  their homes would be burned down. The homes of two people already have been burned  down in eTwatwa.

The police have promised to make more arrests soon and  that the five LPM members arrested 3 June will be charged with burning the electricity transformer in Protea South.

The transformer was burned down on 23 May by other community members not affiliated with the LPM in an effort to show the wealthier residents of Protea South that if electricity is denied to the poor, it will be denied to everyone.

The tactic of disconnecting the rich in retaliation for disconnecting the poor (or asking the state perform the disconnection) has been used in Siyanda, Pemary Ridge and Motala Heights in Durban.

Also on the night of 23 May, the wealthier residents of Protea South, who live in private bonded houses, armed themselves and forcibly disconnected the shack dwellers from the electricity supply. They beat shack dwellers and shot two people. One person has died.

The bonded house residents also attempted to burn down Maureen Mnisi’s house. Her house was saved by LPM members who erected a burning barricade and threw stones at the Homeowner’s Association mob.

Those arrested 3 June were busy defending Maureen Mnisi’s home on the evening they are accused of having burned the transformer in Protea South. It is true they made fires that night, but they were burning tires to keep warm as they protected Maureen’s home.

These arrests are clearly a strategy to hurt Maureen and to undermine her commitment to the struggle. It is the dirtiest tactic to punish a militant by arresting her children and neighbors.
No one has been arrested for the attacks on the LPM in Protea South. In eTwatwa the police stood by as the shacks of two LPM leaders were burned down. Later, the police arrested one person but quickly released them. The police officer who shot dead the LPM militant in eTwatwa has not been arrested.

Liza Cossa, chairperson of the LPM in Protea South, was told by police that they are targeting Maureen Mnisi. She expects now that anything can happen.

The Homeowner’s Association has a long history of placing pressure on Maureen. In early 2009 they signed a petition against her, calling for her removal from the area because she was defending people from outside the country.

It is true that the LPM defends all people from evictions; South Africa belongs to all who live in it, and we make no apology for this.

The LPM is aware that the local ANC councilor, Mapule Khumalo, is behind the actions that have put Maureen under pressure to stop shack dwellers from appropriating electricity. Khumalo was twice seen with members of the Homeowners’ Association after they tried to burn down Maureen’s home. Maureen has refused to give in to these pressures.

The LPM is also aware that the ANC councilor, Baleka, is behind the attacks in eTwatwa.

The media has ignored the attacks on the LPM. The Daily Sun did cover the electricity war in Protea South but only interviewed the Homeowner’s Association. They did not speak to the LPM.
Maureen phoned the The Daily Sun to complain, and the journalist  who promised to get back to her did not. The Daily Sun historically has portrayed shack dwellers as criminals, making propaganda for the rich and for the councilors. This newspaper also provided only one-sided coverage of the attack on Abahlali baseMjondolo in the Kennedy Road settlement in Durban in September 2009.

As representatives of the LPM, we want to send a clear message to the media that they have a duty to tell the truth about what is happening in South Africa. These daily injustices must not be swept under the carpet just so that the government can look good while the world is watching South Africa for the World Cup.

We are calling for urgent legal support. We need lawyers for the LPM members who have been jailed. We need to file cases against the Homeowners Association and the police to get justice for the two people who have been killed. We need money to pay bail.

This statement and its call for urgent solidarity with the LPM is supported by the Poor People’s Alliance, which is comprised of the Abahlali baseMjondolo, the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, the Landless People’s Movement and the Rural Network.

It is clear to members of the Alliance that there is no democracy in South Africa. Each time there is an election, the poor are promised land, housing, water, electricity, toilets, education and jobs.

After the elections are over, we are again denied these basic things. When we ask for the promises that have been made to us to be kept, we are beaten, arrested and jailed. When we occupy land and appropriate water and electricity, we are beaten, arrested and jailed.

Sometimes we are tortured. Sometimes we are even killed.

We call on everyone who is visiting South Africa for the World Cup to come see the conditions in which we must live and to hear how we are oppressed. Visit us in the shacks, on the farms, in the transit camps and in the jails.

For more information and comment, please contact:

Maureen Mnisi, Chairperson of the LPM (Gauteng): 082 337 4514
David Mathontsi, Chairperson of the LPM (eTwatwa): 073 914 9868.

For information and comment on the wider assault on the organized poor in South Africa, please contact:

S’bu Zikode, Abahlali baseMjondolo (Durban): 083 547 0474
Mzonke Poni*, Abahlali baseMjondolo (Cape Town): 073 25 62036
Rev. Mavuso, Rural Network (KwaZulu-Natal): 072 279 2634
Ashraf Cassiem, Anti-Eviction Campaign (Cape Town): 076 186 1408

*Mzonke Poni has spent the last few days with the LPM in Protea South and can also give a firsthand account of recent events there.


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