IN early September, Somnandi Hadebe of the Amajuba Landless People’s Movement, stood up at a community meeting in Normadien, Kwazulu Natal, chaired by Police Minister Bheki Cele: “Nibasabani abelungu?” The meeting was meant to quell tensions in the community following the murder of Glen and Vida Rafferty.
Hadebe wanted to know why the police were not there when white farmers killed workers and black people in general, but were quick to surface when a white farmer is killed and during elections. He said all their problems emanated from white people and yet the police turned a blind eye to their problems. “Nibasabani abelungu?”
A month later, at the Senekal court in the Free State, his views were cemented, when farmers stormed and vandalised the court, overturning and setting alight a police van in full view of the police. The hooligans were protesting the appearance of two men charged with the murder of a farm manager last week Friday.
The response from Justice Minister Ronald Lamola? Timid. Condemnation “in the strongest possible terms the anarchic violence”.
Really? That’s it?
Now just rewind to a few weeks back when the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) staged protests at Clicks over the racist hair advert. In Stellenbosch, sixteen EFF members were arrested. In George, four members were arrested.
In the townships, protests are met with heavy handed police response. Rubber bullets, stun grenades and pepper sprays. In June, police watchdog the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said it was inundated with complaints against the police, with 588 cases including 11 deaths reported from March 26 to June 10. Township residents who disobeyed lockdown rules were met with police brutality, abuse and inhumane treatment. The police murdered Collins Khosa for drinking a half glass of beer in his home.
And this has always been the case with law enforcement agencies where farmers’ protests are concerned. They are allowed to block roads with no hinderance or even police presence. Contrast that with the heavy-handedness of police during the protest by taxi drivers over covid-19 funding.
In Senekal, not a single person arrested despite gunshots, vandalism of property including setting alight a police van. There have even been reports that journalists were harassed during the protest. Not a word from our doyens of democracy. Instead, some timid statements from law enforcement heads. A day after the incident, the South African Police Service (SAPS) issued a statement that the police minister “demands the arrest of lawless protesters following storming of a court and burning of a police van at the Senekal Magistrates Court, which resulted in arson and vandalism”.
Not too far from Senekal, in 2011, activist Andries Tatane was killed by police during a service delivery protest. Eight policemen who were charged with killing him and were acquitted despite footage that showed police clubbing him and beating him even after he was shot at close range.
A year later, in August 2012, this time in Marikana, 34 miners were killed in the most lethal use of force by the SAPS since apartheid. Within minutes of the police’s arrival on the scene of the striking workers, having opened fire with R5 rifles, 34 people were dead and 78 wounded. They were demanding a minimum wage of R12,500. https://www.sahrc.org.za/home/21/files/marikana-report-1.pdf
It is perhaps Bonginkosi Khanyile post on Twitter which summed up the racial double standards of both the SAPS’ and media when it comes to protesters.
“Only for using a mere slingshot in a #FeesMustFall protest I got 6 months direct imprisonment and I am currently serving 3 years house arrest. White people storm inside the court of law & demage (sic) property. No arrest, no tear gas, no @SABCNews to call them hooligans. #FarmMurders