“It is very important that everyone attend this meeting. Anyone who does not attend this meeting – when we come back – you must pack your bags and go. If you don’t do what you’re told you must leave or go to Block R.”
Residents reported groups of the recently deceased’s warlord’s thugs began door-to-door visits early on Sunday morning. All the old blocks – near Madala Stairs – were targeted. According to community members this comprises of more than ten blocks, mostly excessively overcrowded, believed to house over 5 000 people.
The thugs were reportedly direct in their demands – attend the ANC Branch General Meeting to be held at 9am on Sunday at the Glebelands Community Hall, or pack their bags and get out. If residents protested that they were supporters of another party, or disinterested in politics, or were not card-carrying ANC members, they were allegedly ordered to join up or else face forcible eviction. Community members reported that most people were compelled to abandon their plans for the day – going to church, visiting relatives, work shifts or catching up on housekeeping – and attend the ANC meeting. They had learned from bloody experience that to oppose these thugs was usually fatal. After the shooting of several residents who had previously refused to ‘donate’ scarce cash for contract killers, and the recent petrol bombing of a Block Y family who had condemned involvement in the violence at a community meeting, which left a father and three-year-old child dead, the community understandably took the decision to attend the meeting and stay alive. Some later slipped out and returned to their rooms. However, many, particularly vulnerable women with children - are now considering fleeing Glebelands permanently, even if it means giving up their home for a shack in an informal settlement. They can no longer continue to live in daily fear for their lives or under constant threat of eviction.
According to ANC Spokesperson, Sihle Zikalala, in a press statement issued on 14 October, (“NGO's must stop trying to gain popularity by damaging the ANC”), “The ANC cannot be associated with any form of criminal activities.”
In light of his party’s members alleged conduct at Glebelands ahead of his party’s Branch General Meeting on 18 October, perhaps Mr Zikalala may like to retract this statement, or, if such conduct is not officially sanctioned by his party, then perhaps discipline hostel thugs who appear to be bringing the ANC into disrepute by oppressing residents’ political freedoms, and constitutional and human rights. It must also be remembered that intimidation and forcible eviction is a serious criminal offence. The fact that, although, according to the SAPS, a heavy police presence is currently maintaining law and order at Glebelands, police officers appeared not to notice what must have been large groups of men moving from block to block threatening residents.
So, despite the ruling party’s protestations, these recent allegations regarding political intimidation at Glebelands would appear to reinforce many residents’ claims that the killing is a politically motivated extermination campaign. The ANC has a long history of “dealing with” those who raise uncomfortable questions – remember Chris Hani, remember Quattro.
In light of reports of the ruling party’s increasing political intolerance and rising paranoia as seen in the autocratic clamp down
on parliament - the deployment of security personnel to ‘vet’ parliamentary reporters and discourage whistleblower officials,
combined with its ongoing onslaught on civil society organizations such as the Right2Know Campaign, Abahlali baseMjondolo, and a multitude of others that refuse to turn a blind eye to the slow rot of our democracy, recently reported developments at Glebelands are not surprising.
It must be remembered that ultimately, the future of our constitutional and democratic freedom lies with us – each and every
one of us – and if we choose to lie down under the jackboot of an increasingly autocratic, parasitic, predatory regime – or if we really DO believe in the rights so many fought for in our constitution and Freedom Charter. It’s up to us.
Written by Vanessa Burger, Independent Community Activist for Human Rights & Social Justice