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Landless militants and shack-dwellers under attack in Soweto
southern africa | community struggles | press release Monday May 24, 2010 18:42 by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front - ZACF zacf at zabalaza dot net
The following is an urgent communication issued in solidarity with the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) and other shack-dwellers of Protea South, Soweto. It is based on information obtained by telephonic and face-to-face conversations held with LPM members following violent attacks against them last night. There still seems to be confusion, however, and details are sketchy. Updates on the situation will be made available as and when they are received, as will be any factual corrections.
On the evening of Sunday 23 May a group of men attempted to burn down the shack of Landless Peoples Movement chairperson Maureen Mnisi in the informal settlement of Protea South, Soweto. She was inside at the time, and was fortunate to escape with her life only because her son stumbled on the attackers and chased them away.
At about 20h00 that same evening a group of five men - three of whom were allegedly armed with guns, one with a panga (machete) and one with a pick handle - jumped the fence surrounding the shack of another LPM member and ZACF supporter. They banged on the door to his partners and his shack, demanding to see "the man of the house". When they thought the attackers were going to break the door down, the comrade hid and his partner answered the door, hoping to be able to dissuade the attackers. They looked inside the shack with a torch, only to find the couple's two small children sleeping on the bed, and declared "akekho" - he is not here. They then beat up the comrade who answered the door, instructing her to tell her partner that they would be back for him. Fearing for their safety and that of their children, these comrades have been forced to flee the community with almost none of their belongings.
After that the group of armed men* allegedly roamed around the informal settlement attacking people. One community member is reported as having been killed, with at least one more still in hospital. People who were hiding during the attacks claimed that they went on until 24h00, with ambulances coming and going taking people to hospital. It is not yet known how many people were affected by the attacks, nor how many have fled.
LPM members feel certain that the attacks were orchestrated by some of the people inhabiting the bond houses in the area, as there has been ongoing tension between the shack-dwellers and bond house inhabitants over illegal electricity reconnections and relocations - as some of the people in the bond houses want the informal settlement to be relocated (as government has been trying to do for years) in order to push up the prices of their properties. The LPM has been at the fore in resisting these forced relocations, as well as in organising electricity reconnections. We believe that it is for this reason that its members have come under attack.
The LPM and other shack-dwellers are meeting this afternoon at 16h00 at Peacemaker Park in Protea South to determine a response. They would appreciate the participation and support of as many representatives and activists from as many different social movements as possible.
Total solidarity to the LPM and shack-dwellers of Protea South!!