APF condemns the mass arrest of Landless People’s Movement Members

Wednesday 14 April 2004 by APF

The repression and criminalisation of social movements in South Africa continues as the country’s 10-year old democracy is celebrated with the arrest on its Election Day of members of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM). 62 people attending a LPM meeting in Thembelihle outside Lenasia were rounded up by the police this morning. Their alleged crime was their participation in a political meeting that breached the minimum cordon of a polling station required by the Electoral Act (section 108b). But the meeting took place at the Park Station taxi rank in the settlement, well outside the 200-metre radius of the nearest polling station. The organisers of the meeting had even been granted permission to hold the meeting from both the police and the Independent Electoral Commission. So the Anti Privatisation Forum (APF) then joins the LPM in asking: ’What have we done?’

The crime committed by the LPM was to make the demand for justice from a democracy that has failed to redistribute land. The only disruption caused by the LPM on Elections Day has been to point out that Apartheid’s trenchant divisions remain unchanged in rural areas where land ownership is still monopolised by white farmers and tribal authorities. The LPM’s *NO LAND! NO VOTE!* campaign openly identifies the racist inequality and poverty that disrupts the simulation of democracy before any vote is cast today. For raising these issues, the LPM in Thembelihle was subjected to a heavily armed police clampdown that included high-ranking security personnel.

Selective use of Electoral Act

Yet, the police and the IEC took no action when the Electoral Act was clearly contravened by the ANC in Evaton West. ANC party members were this morning openly canvassing for votes inside a polling station and the party had yesterday held a rally in contravention of the two-day political curfew before an election. The police have with the arrests confirmed that the Electoral Act is applied selectively to suppress dissent.

Landless people would not be intimidated this morning. And they should not retreat into silence. The APF and the LPM and all people struggling for land, electricity, water and life will continue to challenge a shallow democracy that declares the struggle for justice to be criminal.

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