Six activists from the Abahlali baseMjondolo in court on murder charges have been released with all charges dropped.
Abahlali baseMjondolo began in the 7000 strong Kennedy Road shack settlement and it is here were the state has concentrated repression. One year and one week ago six key activists in the settlement were arrested on a trumped up murder charge (the same tactic was used against the Landless People's Movement in Johannesburg the year before).
After they were assaulted in custody and denied bail they went on a two week hunger strike. It became a major national news story. Now the state has finally admitted that it never had any evidence against the six men.
Yesterday all charges against the Kennedy 6 were dropped just over a year after the men were first arrested.
The basic chronology of events is as follows:
The Kennedy 6 were arrested on a clearly trumped up murder charge on 21 March 2007 after a well known criminal died in police custody. While in custody they were assaulted and an attempt was made, by Senior Superintendent Glen Nayager, to force them to chant anti-Abahlali slogans. They refused.
On 31 March 2007, after ten days in detention, they began a hunger strike in Westville prison. While in prison they were visited by Bishop Reuben Phillip.
On 10 April 2007 Abahlali attempted to march on the Sydenham Police Station. This march was illegally banned by a diktat from City Manager Mike Sutcliffe but, after a tense stand off, 14 people presented the memorandum to Nayager.
On 13 April 2007, after 23 days in prison and 14 days on hunger strike the Kennedy 6 were released on bail of R5 000 per person and under a de facto apartheid style banning order confining them to rural areas of origin.
On 24 May 2007 the banning order was overturned in a court challenge and they could return home.
On 27 March 2008 all charges against the 6 were dropped before the scheduled trial could begin due to a complete lack of any evidence against them.
Yesterday's vindication of Abahlali's insistence that the charges against the 6 were trumped up by Glen Nayager as an attack on the movement means that, without exception, the state has not attempted to prosecute a single one of the many Abahlali baseMjondolo members who have been arrested (and very often assaulted) by the police over the years. Arrest is being systematically abused as a form of extra-judicial punishment for lawful political activities.
A full press release will be discussed, written and issued soon, this is just to get the good news out quickly. The Kennedy 6 would like to express their gratitude to their lawyer Terrance Seery, to Bishop Reuben Philip and everyone in Durban and around the country and around the world who has offered support.
Abahlali stands in full solidarity with Philani Zungu and the comrades from Tongaat who were assaulted and arrested last weekend. They are all facing charges related to connecting electricity. Of course no one is being held to account for the relentless plague of fires that are directly consequent to the refusal of the municipality to electrify shack settlements and, in some instances, the active withdrawal of existing connections. A hundred shacks burnt in New Germany last night.
In the meantime any queries can be directed to S'bu Zikode at 0027-8354-70474.
For more information on Abahlali baseMjondolo we highly recommend you visit http://www.abahlali.org