When democracy becomes demagoguery

Police do ANC bidding to teargas a community meeting in Gugulethu

Tuesday 10 February 2009 by Nic

Old skeletons are trembling in their closets as the traditional weapons of South African political play are sharpened at this time of elections. The split in the ruling party has done little to pacify the grudge match between the IFP and the ANC in Nongoma in KwaZulu-Natal. Instead, Cope’s emergence has opened another front for beatings and intimidation between the sparring partners. Cope members in East London have been left to wonder “if the ANC is declaring war on us.” And amongst the APF’s own affiliates, the office of the Kliptown Concerned Residents was broken into. Electioneering material for the organisation’s 28 January by-election campaign in the ward were removed by unknown ‘comrade tsotsis.’

The Anti Privatisation Forum has observed with some trepidation the eruption of electoral violence in Cape Town. On Sunday, 8 February 2009, two leaders of the Anti Eviction Campaign (AEC) in Gugulethu, Cape Town were arrested. Mncedisi Twalo and Mbulelo Zuba were beaten severely before being taken into custody as police savagely dispersed the weekly meeting of the AEC using teargas and batons. The police were evidently called in by the ANC’s Western Cape chairperson, Mcebisi Skwatsha, and councillor Belinda Landingwe who mischievously alleged that the AEC was interfering with the work of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The two ANC representatives were seen at the IEC registration drive.

The AEC and IEC, however, had made an amicable arrangement to use separate halls at the shared venue. What we are seeing is not the respect for freedom of association or expression that’s the supposed cornerstone of elections. Rather, the elections are being used as a ruse for clamping down on these freedoms. The ruling ANC - and the Cape Town-ruling DA - have a shared and longstanding animosity against the AEC, which has successfully defended poor households against evictions. Now that the control of the Western Cape and of Cape Town is at stake, the AEC’s independence from any political party and it’s refusal to participate in any of their electoral campaigns has nominated the social movement for repression.

Thankfully, the two AEC leaders have been released on bail after an arduous 24 hours in detention. It is almost fruitless for the Anti Privatisation Forum to call for the charges against the two comrades to be dropped. This will happen at their first hearing in May. The APF supports the call for an investigation into this case of police violence and theft, and their deployment by the masters of democracy.

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