APF

Criminalising the Anti-Eviction Campaign

Tuesday 1 April 2003 by APF

At the time of writing of this article, Max Ntanyana, a leading member of the Mandela Park Anti-Eviction Campaign, is in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town. He is being held for breaking his bail conditions - bail conditions which themselves are related to a case of ’intimidation’ thrown against him by the South African government. These bail conditions included a ban on speaking in meetings, a ban on meeting with evicted people, and a restriction to stay within the Mitchell’s Plain magisterial district. Max was arrested - by unmarked police in a black car with no number plates - on the 24th of March and will be released at earliest on the 10th of April (his next court appearance).

The imprisonment of Max Ntanyana is just one of the latest chapters in the Western Cape government’s plan to criminalise the Khayelitsha and Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaigns. Since November last year, when Western Cape ’Community Safety’ minister Leonard Ramatlakane announced a crackdown on the Khayelitsha AEC, there have been dozens of arrests in the area - mostly on charges such as ’trespassing’ and ’intimidation’. Even last week, Mrs Fono of Gracelands, Khayelitsha, was released, with all charges dismissed, after having spent a week in Pollsmoor. Mrs Fono is an old lady - and her crime was simply to have re-occupied her house after having once been arrested previously for re-occupying her house the first time.

Criminalising the Anti-Eviction Campaign Johannesburg - April 2003

At the time of writing of this article, Max Ntanyana, a leading member of the Mandela Park Anti-Eviction Campaign, is in Pollsmoor Prison, Cape Town. He is being held for breaking his bail conditions - bail conditions which themselves are related to a case of ’intimidation’ thrown against him by the South African government. These bail conditions included a ban on speaking in meetings, a ban on meeting with evicted people, and a restriction to stay within the Mitchell’s Plain magisterial district. Max was arrested - by unmarked police in a black car with no number plates - on the 24th of March and will be released at earliest on the 10th of April (his next court appearance).

The imprisonment of Max Ntanyana is just one of the latest chapters in the Western Cape government’s plan to criminalise the Khayelitsha and Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaigns. Since November last year, when Western Cape ’Community Safety’ minister Leonard Ramatlakane announced a crackdown on the Khayelitsha AEC, there have been dozens of arrests in the area - mostly on charges such as ’trespassing’ and ’intimidation’. Even last week, Mrs Fono of Gracelands, Khayelitsha, was released, with all charges dismissed, after having spent a week in Pollsmoor. Mrs Fono is an old lady - and her crime was simply to have re-occupied her house after having once been arrested previously for re-occupying her house the first time.

The Khayelitsha Anti-Eviction Campaign has grown out of community organising to stop and reverse evictions from houses in Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s biggest township. Khayelitsha was developed largely by private developers - with land and houses being owned by private sector banks. This was a result of the Apartheid government’s turn towards policies of privatisation in the late 1980s, and also the Apartheid government’s decision not to build houses for people classified as ’African’. The result has been that residents, the poorest of the poor, are paying back bonds to private banks such as NBS, ABSA and Khayelethu Home Loans. Often these are simply unaffordable - such as when pensioners are expected to pay R600 of the R640 pension on their houses, many of which have serious structural problems.

From 1999 to 2002, hundreds of people were evicted from houses in Khayelitsha. They were relocated to tiny ’rightsizing’ houses far from their original homes. The inadequate construction of these ‘dog kennels’ has lead to health problems, with many evicted pensioners dying.

Since June 2002, however, there have been no evictions in Mandela Park. The community stood together, and chased away sheriffs that came to evict people and repossess their goods. It is this unity that stands in the way of attempts by the ANC government, since 1994, to make a deal with the banks. The ANC government wants to ’normalise’ the low income housing market - in other words, make private development and bank profits in low income housing normal. The only way to do so is to use the police and the sheriffs to help squeeze money out of the poor - through the private-public partnership, SERVCON.

The Anti-Eviction Campaign has put a stop to this plan. And for that, they have been targeted. There is evidence that the Western Cape government is using the same tactics against the AEC that they learnt in their battle with PAGAD. Community meetings are infiltrated by police spies, and National Intelligence Agency agents are active, pretending to be businesspeople. They want to identify leaders and funders of the Campaign, and do not realise that in the AEC, we have hundreds of leaders, hundreds of funders (ourselves)! In the media, the state has worked with friendly journalists to demonise the AEC, calling members thugs, and worse.

Last week saw the arrest of one of our comrades, comrade Thumi. He disappeared for a day, and police would not say where he was. Apparently during this time he was offered R5000 if he would become a police spy within the AEC. He refused, and has now been charged with ’attempted murder’! The police say he was with a group of youths who stoned a police car. They have never been able to catch these youths, so now they are trying to make Thumi a scapegoat!

The Anti-Eviction Campaign knows comrade Thumi’s arrest is not the last attack. Sources within the police say that the Western Cape government is planning on closing the Gang Unit, and redirecting its staff to fight the Anti-Eviction Campaign - not just in Khayelitsha, but across the whole of Cape Town. And from National Government, there is the ’Anti-Terrorism Bill’, which also was drafted after the state fought PAGAD. The state wants to call all forceful opposition to their policies terrorism. Comrades, across the country we need to be aware of this and fight these initiatives to turn community action into a criminal offence!

The Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign arose in response to terror: the terror that poor communities face from the state, when people are evicted and the police and sheriffs move in to seize the meagre belongings of the poor. We say we must stand together to fight against terror, we must fight against every attempt from the government to frighten us into submission!

A Luta Continua!


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