Shooting and arrests at Boiketlong-Sebokeng protests
Tuesday 14 August 2007
Service Delivery-Housing Protest by community of Boiketlong (in Sebokeng- Vaal) attacked by police this morning.
35 arrested (5 of whom were injured by rubber bullets) charged with public violence and illegal gathering.
Heavily armed police continue to harass APF and community leaders and residents
Early this morning, over 1000 residents of the ‘informal settlement’ of Boiketlong (in Sebokeng - Vaal) - under the banner of the APF and the CAWP - embarked on a service delivery-housing protest. Instead of listening and talking with the protesting residents, police opened fire at random on the crowd. Many were shot with rubber bullets while running away, others arrested as they tried to return to their homes. In all, 35 people have been arrested (including five of those injured who are now receiving medical attention) and are presently being held in the Sebokeng Police Station. Police have indicated that they are being charged with public violence and illegal gathering and will appear in court tomorrow for a bail hearing (the police have refused free bail).
The APF/CAWP will post bail for those arrested and will fight the charges in court, as we have done with all other similar arrests of residents which have been made as a result of service delivery protests in several Gauteng communities over the last few weeks. Less than an hour ago, 9 APF and community leaders (including APF Chairperson, Bricks Mokolo) were then arrested for simply addressing a community gathering. They have been subsequently released without charge, However, heavily armed police are continuing to harass Boiketlong residents in an attempt to try and prevent them from meeting and discussing the situation and protesting the arrests already made.
Once again, the actions of the police have been wholly unacceptable and completely out of proportion to the supposed ‘threat’ posed by such a protest. What we are witnessing again and again in poor community after poor community, is that the police and government officials treating the legitimate grievances and protests over service delivery, of the various communities, with contempt and arrogance. The Boiketlong action was (as has been the case elsewhere) the latest in a series of attempts over the last few months, by community residents, to highlight the complete failure of government to provide housing and decent services in their community. Residents have used every available avenue to highlight/publicise their demands for service delivery, only and always to be met with a deafly silence and to be told that they must shut up and continue to ‘wait’ (as they have been doing for many years) for government to come back to them on their repeated promises of housing-service delivery. Indeed, the police are so determined to ‘stamp out’ any free expression of dissent, that they are now arresting leaders who are doing nothing more than addressing a gathering of residents. THIS MUST STOP! If things continue the way they are, we will soon have an effective police state existing in poor communities!
Problems around service delivery which are affecting hundreds of poor communities across this country are not going to go away because government doesn’t like them or because police decided to try and smash any legitimate protest and resistance. There will only be more mass actions and protests as long as the government does nothing to seriously address the concerns and demands of those communities, and come up with concrete plans in which the communities and their organisations are included as an equal and legitimate partner.
STOP POLICE VIOLENCE AGAINST POOR COMMUNITIES! DEFEND FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND PROTEST! SERVICE DELIVERY NOW!
For further comment/information contact: CAWP Organiser Patra Sindane (who has been arrested) on 073-052-7005: APF Chairperson Bricks Mokolo on 072 175-8948 Community activist Mish on 079 812-4724