• Swazi Police Abduct Pro-Democracy Leaders

    Swaziland police officers have illegally abducted prodemocracy leaders over the weekend, drove them 30 kilometres away, and dumped them to prevent them from taking part in a meeting calling for freedom in the kingdom.

    The police officers staged roadblocks on all major roads leading to Swaziland's main commercial city, Manzini, where protests were to be held.

    The intended protests were part of the annual 12 April commemorations in that country, following King Sobhuza II Royal proclamation dissolving parliament, banning political parties and placing all power in the kingdom in the hands of the monarchy on 12 April 1973.

    To read the article titled, “Police abduct democracy leaders,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Human Rights ‘Taking a Turn for the Worst’ - NGO

    Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a ‘warning’ to the South African government, that human rights are ‘taking a turn for the worst’ in the country, citing attacks on the free press and escalating police violence as the main reasons for the regression.

    HRW’s Southern Africa director, Tiseke Kasambala, says that while South Africa remain a ‘beacon of hope’ on the continent, its human rights legacy is gradually being eroded.

    "There is an increasingly violent reaction to peaceful protests in South Africa. It seems that every time there are protests in South Africa, the police are heavy-handed, and use excessive force. We want to see President [Jacob] Zuma and his government make clear that the police must abide by international standards, and use proportionate force," explains Kasambala.

    To read the article titled, “Lethal force: SA warned on human rights,” click here.

    Mail and Guardian
  • CASAC Slams Police for Shooting Protestors

    The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) says the killing of two protesters by police in Mothutlung in Brits, North West, is an outrage.
    In a press statement, CASAC states that citizens expected lessons would have been learned and remedial action taken after the killing of Andries Tatane in April 2011, the Marikana shootings in August 2012, and the killing of Mido Macio in Daveyton in February 2013.
    “So far no one has been held to account for the killings of Tatane, Macio, and the dead of Marikana. The failure to act against the perpetrators of these killings will only serve to undermine respect for the rule of law,” it warns.
    To read the article titled, “CASAC outraged at Brits protester killings,” click here.

    IOL News
  • Greenpeace Requests Meeting With Putin

    Environmental organisation, Greenpeace, has asked for a meeting with Russia’s President, Vladimir Putin, following the arrest of the entire crew of the group’s ship that protested against Arctic oil drilling in Russia.
    Greenpeace executive director, Kumi Naidoo, states that he was willing to travel to Moscow at any moment to secure the release of the 30 crew members of the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker.
    “We are willing to face the consequences of what we did, as long as those consequences are within a nation’s criminal code as any reasonable person understands that code to be,” he explains.

    To read the article titled, “Greenpeace chief asks to meet Putin after arrests”, click here.

    The Citizen
  • Increasing Use of Collective Violence: ‘Right’ to Assert the Dignity of the Poor

    Philosopher and poet, Petrović Njegoš, claimed the immortal maxim that the most sacred of man’s duties is ‘to place a foot upon tyranny’s neck’. Taking this much further, the Brazilian educator-philosopher, Paulo Freire, said that the oppressor’s violence is grounded in the desire to pursue the right to be human and so is not a negation of one’s humanity which is characteristic of how the ruling class governs. But that was the 20th Century and the lessons learned then, was to explore the possibility of peaceful change. Hence apartheid South Africa emerged post-1994 as a constitutional democracy so that conflicts, be they in the workplace or on the streets, be guided by the rule of law.

    In contemporary South Africa however, for the urban and landless poor and for the exploited migrant labourer, collective violence is seemingly becoming the central instrument against market and state forces that render their lives insignificant. As such, in an attempt to assert their dignity and enable legitimacy to their demands, a 2011 report records a community protestor saying that it was 'the smoke that calls them', referring to the elite.

    In The smoke that calls: Insurgent citizenship, collective violence and the struggle for a place in the new South Africa report, a Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) and Society, Work and Development Institute (SWOP) project, lies a report that spans over three years from its initial conceptualisation in the aftermath of the 2008 xenophobic attacks to July 2011 after the acceleration of mobilised violence in the form of ‘running street battles with the police’ against the state. The report was assembled by a team of seven researchers who investigated seven communities spread across the country. Consequently, the scale of this undertaking and the ensuing conjectural overtures that the report highlights makes a damning indictment on the health of the governing African National Congress (ANC) and its moral weight in South African society.

    The report says that, “The ANC itself has sufficiently far-reaching legitimacy to simultaneously present itself as the governing authority within the town councils and as a popular movement outside the state, able at times to represent popular pressure on the state’. It further notes that many community protests or community-based organisations - at least in the cases that are investigated - are organised for various reasons, nefarious or virtuous, to ‘reconfigure power relations in the ANC’. More so these reconfigurations are made possible, as the report notes, through the use of collective violence as a political force.

    Regrettably, these actions have had a negative impact on the institutional memory of local councils and have interrupted even at times, eschewed service delivery roll-outs. All of this, the report notes, indicates that the ANC has become an incredibly unstable organisation. In such cases of community mobilisation, there is ‘no interest in establishing any kind of autonomous organisational presence which might empower the community to engage more consistently in struggles for service delivery’. As a result, the popular energy unleashed in the protests was channelled into electoral politics. In other parts of the country, however, there are attempts to mobilise and sustain this energy outside electoral politics.

    Against the popular energy released by grassroots organisation Abahlali BaseMjondolo (AbM) and recently witnessed by their occupation of vacant land in Philippi, Cape Town, there is a growing awareness of the need to sustain socio-economic claims outside electoral politics. The story of Operation: Rooigrond in Mahikeng; of Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC) in Lenasia or of Marlboro Warehouse Concerned Committee (MWCR) in Alexandra, to mention a few, is indicative of this emerging trend. However, the struggle to sustain socio-economic claims outside electoral politics has been accompanied by an increase, in the main, of violence on the streets and litigation in the courts; a fluctuating cycle which at times appears to have no end. To some extent, these need to be understood as part of an extended conversation between community-based groups and their municipalities because of the latter’s inflexibility to the needs of the former and their constituencies. Nevertheless, in such cases, courts have tended to endear municipalities to be more considerate of communities needs by encouraging them to re-open channels of communication with them. The story and history of the aforementioned community-groups is evidence of this fluctuation.

    For the TCC, which began in 2001; the MWCR, in 2004 and Operation: Rooigrond, in 2009, years of neglect had begun to set in and the irritation of residents manifested itself in various (and unequal) ways. As a result, the emergence of these organisations has served to sustain and channel this energy but it is not come without its own violence. For the TCC and Operation: Rooigrond, the suspicious eviction of the entire Thembelihle community and the lack of municipal support for community outreach programmes, respectively, had to be confronted before these organisations could make claims on socio-economic rights. Furthermore, the lack of housing solutions for Marlboro residents, who occupy warehouses in the industrial heartland of Alexandra, forced them to invade privately-owned land which sat unused next to them. At different times and with differing constraints and opportunities, these community struggles have made use of collective violence, many times in response to police violence or municipal officials’ discourteous response to communities’ interests.

    Richard Pithouse observes that the ‘state has no capacity to provide most people with access to land and housing and so to insist that people wait patiently, for the state to deliver is untenable because people form families and children grow up’. Furthermore, in managing community protests, the police have only sought to uphold the now unravelling myth that the state can provide for all. In such a state of affairs, collective violence exercised by protesting communities has been used to constitute the poor and landless as equal and legitimate actors in their own development. As such and in many ways, sustaining the struggle for socio-economic claims outside electoral politics increasingly means the continued use of collective violence. And the intransigent behaviour of local political and state players has meant that the 20th Century lessons are being unheeded.

    The big question for us all is to what extent are we going to endure more violence before we recognise the humanity and dignity of those who invade land, steal electricity or make use of collective violence to be heard? More importantly, when will we be able to align our political culture, in the manner we engage with each other or resolve conflicts, with the spirit of our constitution?

    For more about Local Government Action, refer to

    - Thapelo Tselapedi is a research and advocacy officer at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI). He writes in his personal capacity.
    Thapelo Tselapedi
  • NGOs Petition SADC Over Zim Elections

    Scores of NGOs from Southern Africa are stepping up pressure on the regional body, the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to discuss the disputed Zimbabwe elections at a summit scheduled for Malawi this week.

    One of the civil society organisations, Action Support Centre, has been quoted as saying that the NGOs are also planning demonstrations across the region, starting with one in Cape Town.

    The call from the civic groups comes as President Robert Mugabe has received congratulatory messages mainly from his traditional supporters in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

    To read the article titled, “More than 30 regional NGOs petition SADC over Zim elections,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Activist Supports ‘Faeces Dumping’ Protestors

    The man who pioneered faeces-dumping protests at government offices has expressed his support for the shack dwellers in Cape Town who have adopted the strategy.

    However, Ayanda Kota, founder of the Grahamstown-based civic organisation the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM), says he is concerned that the fight for better sanitation in informal settlements has been mired in ‘party politics and electioneering’ between the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) ahead of next year’s general election.

    Kota notes with concern, however, that the ANC had seized the opportunity to denounce the DA’s sanitation service delivery in the province as part of a bid to win back the province in next year’s elections.

    To read the article titled, “Meet the pioneer of poo protests,” click here.

    Independent Online
  • SAHRC to Push for Appeal in Tatane Case

    The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) will receive the judgement in the case of Ficksburg protester Andries Tatane and will consider urging the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to appeal the court ruling.

    SAHRC’s Kayum Ahmed, points out that the Commission will be in the position to determine whether or not to appeal to the NPA to make the process forward, after receiving the judgement.

    Ahmed’s comment after the Ficksburg Regional Court acquitted all seven policemen accused of murdering Tatane.

    To read the article titled, “HRC could push for appeal in Tatane case,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Govt Calls for Peaceful Protests

    Government spokesperson, Phumla Williams, has urged Western Cape farmworkers to be peaceful and remain calm when they take part in the strikes.

    In a press statement, Williams points out that, "While employees have the right to engage their employers on matters relating to wage and working conditions, they are encouraged to refrain from violence and intimidation of other workers and the public in general."

    The call follows an announcement by Congress of South African Trade Unions provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, that farmworkers will be taking to the streets this week following failed pay negotiations with Agri SA and government.

    To read the article titled, “Government calls for 'peaceful' farm strikes,” click here.

    Times Live
  • NGO Backs Planned January Protests

    Malawi’s Council for Non-Governmental Organisations in Malawi (CONGOMA) has joined the Consumers’ Association of Malawi (CAMA) to mobilise people to stage a mass consumer protest in January 2013.
    CONGOMA board chairperson, Voice Mhone, says that the council is concerned about the continued devaluation of the kwacha which, he says, due to the floatation of the currency, is currently estimated to be at 101 percent from the 49 percent announced in May this year.
    Mhone maintains that although his organisation advocated the devaluation of the kwacha, the council is not playing double standards, arguing the effects of the floatation of the kwacha have become unbearable to Malawians while government ‘adamantly keeps going on money-spinning errands’.
    To read the article titled, “Civil society group backs January protests by consumers association,” click here.

    The Standard
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