Is police repression, sometimes by violence means, to become a national trend?
By Marthe van der Wolf
5 September 2007
Concerns about police repression of protests are a big concern for The Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI)after protest in Protea South were violently attacked by police on Monday.
Staff of the (FXI) were eyewitnesses to acts of police harassment against Protea South residents on Monday morning. Community leader Maureen Mnisi was arrested while she was trying to speak with the media. She and about five other community members were taken into custody. The next day, they were released without being charged.
SAPS members fired at random towards the protesters with rubber bullets. One resident, Mandisa Msewu, was shot in the mouth with a rubber bullet. The police also used a helicopter and water cannon. Due to the violence of the police, several residents needed attention from paramedic.
In other parts of Gauteng, similar acts of protester repression were reported.
Spokesperson Hang Wani of the Department of Safety and Security, says these allegations are unfounded and the police is just doing their job. "We have seen that most protest, are getting out of control and people use whatever argument they can to attack those who are supposed to protect them. There has been a trend of out of control protesting throughout the country. The police is doing their job in protecting those who are not involved in the protest and that could mean they have to use some force."
According to the FXI, Monday’s events in Protea South also undermined media freedom as well. Sunday Times journalist Lirhuwani Mammburu, was harassed by police after photographing Mnisi’s arrest.
The FXI is assisting now in setting up the Freedom of Expression Network (FXN). This network seeks to build capacity among movements of the poor to better defend their rights from continuing attempts to silence them.
A request for a meeting with Safety and Security Minister Charles Nqakula about the situation that protesters face and the alleged violations.
Spokesperson Hang Wani said: "We are democratic country and we respect the media freedom. It’s an allegation, we can never do such a thing at all."