By Kwanele Sibanda, CORC
Barricaded streets in the Thembelihle: The police used live ammunition to regain control of the informal settlement
On Wednesday, September 7, ISN representatives attended a public meeting in Thembelihle and collected the contact details of the leadership.
The next day, the ISN members managed to secure a meeting with the leaders and explained to them what ISN is all about. The leaders understood and showed interest in the ISN’s approach to the process. Hence they immediately gave the ISN members a chance to introduce themselves to the community. More than 400 community members were present at the public meeting.
One of the leaders said that as they attempted to march to court, they were blocked by the police and asked to send only five representatives. The police actually accompanied the five to court. To avoid marching in the streets, the leaders arranged with the local taxi association and got taxis to transport the people to court. As they arrived at court, four of their members were arrested and charged with ‘illegal gathering’. The leader that organised the meeting between ISN and the Thembelihle leadership was amongst the four that were arrested.
Those that were arrested on Monday morning were charged with events that took place in the evening. They were denied bail and told that only on Friday could they do their formal applications.
Women who went to the police station were informed by the station commander that the police have three members that are on their wanted list and all of them are community leaders. It is alleged that the police are suspecting them of initiating and leading the protest. The community now feels that taking away the leaders is the police’s approach to disintegrating the community so as to end the protest.
The exact number and names of those seriously wounded is not known by the community.
The community nominated Bhayiza to be the community’s spokesperson for the protest (he is apparently in the list of the wanted).
In the public meeting, the leaders condemned criminal activities such as the looting of shops.
As a way forward, the Thembelihle leadership and ISN drafted a programme of action. The programme mainly seeks to address the critical issues at hand and they are as following:
- Legal support for those that are arrested and those that are on the wanted list. The ISN has already made an appointment with a lawyer who has previously assisted them in community related struggles. Three ISN members and three affected Thembelihle residents will be present.
- Two ISN enumeration members and a team from Thembelihle will work together in gathering information such as the number of those that are injured, received/not yet received treatment, their house/shack numbers etc (a hint to the community about the importance of an enumeration).
- Community contributions for food for those in the holding cells and children left behind (demonstration of the importance of community savings).
- Negotiations with private hospitals to assist the two who are fighting for their lives after being shot with live ammunition.
The ISN has begun by working with the Thembelihle community in identifying key or critical issues that need immediate attention. The ISN will use its experience for example in the gathering of information and existing partnerships to link the Thembelihle community with formal institutions that are relevant to their struggles. The current form of support has already created an entry point into the community. A bigger role will come into play when the enumeration and engagements with government start.