Solidarity with Thembelihle & Tsakane!

Community protests in Tembelihle and Tsakane over poor water services, inadequate housing and illegal electricity disconnections have been brutally repressed by the police. The Workers & Socialist Party condemns the police murder of two community members (including a school child) and injuries and arrests of dozens of others.

Ignorant media accounts make the explosion of protest sound as if it came out of the blue. But these communities have been suffering for years and have explored every ‘official’ route to improve their living standards. People’s patience has run out! After the community submitted a memorandum on their service delivery issues last year, the housing department promised a follow-up meeting in January. Nothing happened. When the community enquired they were told the meeting had already happened – but no community representatives had been present!

On Tuesday housing officials came to the community saying the MEC for human settlements, Jacob Mamabolo, ANC and SACP member, needed a further two weeks to consider their concerns. Maybe in that time Mamabolo should also live without adequate housing, water, sanitation and electricity. The community demanded he come to the community in person to discuss their concerns but the officials said he was scared he would be lynched! The community assured his safety but were clearly not believed. It is an indictment of so-called public ‘representatives’ when they fear their own constituents!

On Wednesday a mass meeting of over 2,000 residents voted overwhelmingly against giving MEC Mamabolo a further two weeks and voted in favour of mass action now to force him to listen to their concerns. They began marching that afternoon and moved to block the road. At this point the police were used to suppress the protests in a blatant act of political policing. Residents exercising their democratic right to protest over political issues – the question of how resources in society are allocated – were brutally suppressed.

As ever, the politicians are trying to make the protests appear as mindless violence rather than a long developed grievance for which they are to blame which has been responded to by democratically organised mass action. The ANC MEC for community safety, Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane, has described it as “utter lawlessness”.

Also, the media wishes to sensationalise aspects of the protest than get the truth out. A tiny minority tried to use the protest as an excuse for xenophobic looting it is true. But the protest organisers met with shop-owners and searched the settlement in order to return their goods. Likewise, the idea that the black Africans of the community are “fighting with their neighbours”, the Indians in Lenasia, is likewise false. A lone lunatic in Lenasia, was firing a gun at protestors, killing one and injuring a further three, but he has a long history of such crazy action. In general the Indian community is sympathetic to the plight of their neighbours and have a good relationship with them.

We stand in solidarity with the residents of Thembelihle and Tsakane. We will support future protests over service delivery and protests against the ANC’s political policing.