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Thursday, 19 February 2009
Abahlali baseMjondolo Press Release

Electricity Disconnected and Three Women Arrested in Arnett Drive

Yesterday at around 10am ten cars of Sydenham SAPS and Securicor Security Guards came with their guns to the Arnett Drive settlement to disconnect electricity from 200 households. The private police came into Gertrude Cele’s house and said “Can you please turn on your radio.” She turned it on. Then, they said “The electricity is working so now we are arresting you”. She said “You can’t arrest me because I am just a visitor here, and I don’t know anything.” They said, “We found you in this house, so we are going to arrest you.” This is how the police and private security make it a criminal offence to be a poor person in South Africa.

Gertrude Cele is 60 years old. She told them that she is sick and is taking some high blood pressure medication. The police said you will do that in the police station. While she was at the police station, she collapsed, went unconscious and when she woke up the police asked her, what is wrong? She told them that the high blood pressure is high now, and that she needed to take her medication. Then they said they were going to bring her back to the settlement, and that they would not arrest her. While she was at the Sydenham police station, they asked her if she could pay R500 bail. She said she does not have that money. They brought her back. The other two ladies remained in police custody. The names of the two ladies are Sisi Ndlovu, who is 18 years old, and Nozolile Khathi, who is 30 years old. Nozolile is also sick and was a visitor in the house where she was arrested. She was supposed to go to hospital today. When they told the policemen that she is sick and is supposed to go to the hospital, the police said, there are also hospitals at the police station, and then they took her.

Yesterday the whole community mobilized and went to the Sydenham police station to demand their release, and they were told to come back today. They were denied the right to see to see them. While they were still at the Sydenham police station, Mr. Mtshali, who is the owner of the shack that Nozolile was at, said that at least they should arrest him instead of her, the police refused. They insisted that they were arresting the person they found inside the shack. When today they went back again and they were told they were at the Pinetown Magistrate Court. Today, they appeared at the Pinetown Magistrate Court. They were released on R500 bail. The case is adjourned until 2 April 2009 at the Pinetown Magistrate’s Court.

The police and security officers first began disconnections at the road near a generator. They then proceeded to go house to house, arresting those who they could find inside. In some houses, they not only pulled out the electrical wires found inside, but also people’s possessions, breaking household items.

While in custody, none of the three women – despite the fact that two were known to be ill by the arresting officers prior to arrival at the police station – were able to see a doctor. After being kept in jail overnight Nozolile was not able to see a doctor.

At no point during the arrests were the women told what they were being officially charged with.

Most of those at Arnett Drive during the police and security official raid were women.

Three months ago the same security company came to the settlement to disconnect electricity, and they shot Thokozani Mkhotli through the thigh as he was coming from the toilets. Still, nothing has happened about that case. These are the same police who have often violently attacked Abahlali baseMjondolo marches and who have tortured our leaders.

We need to emphasize that while the city is still denying shack-dwellers to electrify their shacks, community connections will continue because it is not us who needs electricity, but it is our lives that need electricity. We are tired of getting burned in the shacks. Therefore we will continue to connect ourselves to electricity for as long as the government refuses to allow us to have access to electricity. If they disconnect us we will reconnect the same day. If they arrest us we will all put money together so that the bail costs are shared. We will welcome our comrades home as heroes.

Electricity is the answer while we are waiting for houses that we are being promised since 1994 and we are still living in shacks with no toilets, with no electricity, with one standpipe that caters to 600 families. These armed disconnections and arrests raise a question if this is the kind of democracy that we were all being promised when we were going to the voting station in 1994. Is this the better life for all that the ANC is always talking about in their manifestos?

Viva Operation Khanyisa!

Your Criminals Are Our Heroes!

No Land! No House! No Electricity! No Vote!

Contact

Ntombifuthi – 0733279300
Thobekile Magwaza – 0793345627
Abahlali baseMjondolo Office – 0312691822

Also see these previous entries on the Arnett Drive settlement:

* Arnett Drive AGM, February 2009
* Arnett Drive Resident Shot with Live Ammunition, December 2008
* Arnett Drive Successfully Resists Evictions, January 2008 – August 2008
* Arnett Drive Court Case August 2008
* Arnett Drive Evictions, January 2008
* Arnett Drive: Discussion About Forced Removals, August 2007

And these entries on armed electricity disconnections (and consequent fires):

* All Deserve to Have Electricity, by Mark Butler, December 2008
* The Solution to Shack Fires is Electrification, Not More Training, by Richard Pithouse, August 2008
* Armed De-Electrification in the Motala Heights Settlement, August 2008
* eMagwaveni settlement in Tongaat is under violent police attack, May 2008
* Kennedy Road shack fire, a double attack, by S’bu Zikode, February 2008
* Shack Fires Are No Accident! Electrify the Settlements Now!, February 2008
* Mass Disconnections from Electricity at Gun Point in the Kennedy Road Settlement, February 2008

And Matt Birkinshaw’s report on electricity and shack fires:

* A Big Devil in the Jondolos: A report on shack fires, by Matt Birkinshaw, September 2008

And, finally, Raúl Zibechi’s The Militarization of the World’s Urban Peripheries:

* The Militarization of the World’s Urban Peripheries, by Raúl Zibechi, February 2007

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