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Man arrested at far-right rally in Belfast in day of demonstrations

The Guardian | Protest -

Arrest followed attack on Britain First group, with riot police deployed to keep protesters of different factions apart

One man was arrested after a missile was hurled at a gathering of the far-right group Britain First during a rally at Belfast City Hall on Sunday. Riot police officers acted after the object was thrown as Britain First’s Jayda Fransen vowed to organise protests against new mosques being built in Northern Ireland.

The Britain First rally, which took place around lunchtime, was timed to coincide with a republican parade marking the anniversary of British internment without trial in Belfast, but those demonstrators were barred from the city centre. Organiser Dee Fennell said: “The only people that are denied entrance to Belfast city centre are the republican people of Belfast, of Derry, of right across this country and beyond.”

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Italy: Police operation against La Caura and La Riottosa, 6 comrades released, 2 still imprisoned

House Occupation News -

On Friday we reported about raids, evictions and arrests in Italy. Here is another report about the police operation. Six comrades were released yesterday, two are still imprisoned.

On Thursday 3rd August at 6:30am the Digos of Lecce and an antiterrorism special squad (UOPI) wearing balaclavas and armed with machineguns stormed La Caura Squat (Roca-Lecce). The police forced those present to lie face down on the floor, then took a comrade, Paska, away who is now being held in the Lecce prison.

The episode occurred at the same time as that at La Riottosa in Florence, where 7 more comrades were arrested, while one was arrested in Rome. The police operation refers to an explosive attack on ”Il Bargello” [neo-nazi] bookshop, a Casapound place, in Florence (1st January 2017), when an incompetent bomb disposal expert was injured, and to an incendiary bottle against the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, Florence (21st April 2017).

The police chief of Lecce immediately took the chance to threaten the new squat (La Caura), opened just ten days ago, with eviction, as happened with La Riottosa.

At around 2pm about thirty people went outside the prison in Lecce in solidarity for a quick greeting to the prisoners. And another gathering is to take place today 4th August at 6pm.

Solidarity with Micol, Marina, Sandro, Nicola, Roberto, Paska, Giovanni, Vespertino.

Freedom for all.

Update:

On the 5th of August there was a judicial hearing about the pre-trial detention of the eight anarchist comrades. Six of the eight people arrested on 3 August morning were released yesterday. Comrade Salvatore Vespertino is still in the prison of Solliciano in Florence. The comrade Pierloreto Fallanca also remains imprisoned in Lecce.

The current addresses to write to the comrades are:

Salvatore Vespertino
c.c. Sollicciano
via Minervini 2r – 50142 Firenze, Italy

Pierloreto Fallanca
via Paolo Perrone 4 – 73100 Lecce, Italy

[Posted on August 6, 2017 by Enough is Enough!.]

Italy: Police operation against La Caura and La Riottosa, 6 comrades released, 2 still imprisoned

House Occupation News -

On Friday we reported about raids, evictions and arrests in Italy. Here is another report about the police operation. Six comrades were released yesterday, two are still imprisoned.

On Thursday 3rd August at 6:30am the Digos of Lecce and an antiterrorism special squad (UOPI) wearing balaclavas and armed with machineguns stormed La Caura Squat (Roca-Lecce). The police forced those present to lie face down on the floor, then took a comrade, Paska, away who is now being held in the Lecce prison.

The episode occurred at the same time as that at La Riottosa in Florence, where 7 more comrades were arrested, while one was arrested in Rome. The police operation refers to an explosive attack on ”Il Bargello” [neo-nazi] bookshop, a Casapound place, in Florence (1st January 2017), when an incompetent bomb disposal expert was injured, and to an incendiary bottle against the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, Florence (21st April 2017).

The police chief of Lecce immediately took the chance to threaten the new squat (La Caura), opened just ten days ago, with eviction, as happened with La Riottosa.

At around 2pm about thirty people went outside the prison in Lecce in solidarity for a quick greeting to the prisoners. And another gathering is to take place today 4th August at 6pm.

Solidarity with Micol, Marina, Sandro, Nicola, Roberto, Paska, Giovanni, Vespertino.

Freedom for all.

Update:

On the 5th of August there was a judicial hearing about the pre-trial detention of the eight anarchist comrades. Six of the eight people arrested on 3 August morning were released yesterday. Comrade Salvatore Vespertino is still in the prison of Solliciano in Florence. The comrade Pierloreto Fallanca also remains imprisoned in Lecce.

The current addresses to write to the comrades are:

Salvatore Vespertino
c.c. Sollicciano
via Minervini 2r – 50142 Firenze, Italy

Pierloreto Fallanca
via Paolo Perrone 4 – 73100 Lecce, Italy

[Posted on August 6, 2017 by Enough is Enough!.]

Civil rights groups to sue over Trump's plan for transgender military ban

The Guardian | Protest -

Ban decried as ‘mean spirited and discriminatory’ as White House said to have approved guidance on keeping transgender people out of the armed forces

Civil rights groups on Saturday announced their intent to file suit against Donald Trump’s “mean-spirited and discriminatory” attempt to ban transgender people from serving in the US armed forces.

Related: 'Ready to fight': Transgender troops and veterans hit back over Trump ban

Related: Top military officials call on Trump to reverse transgender ban

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Berlin: Riot cops around Teppich Fabrik Squat

House Occupation News -

Riot cops are patrolling around the squatted Teppich Fabrik (Carpet factory) in the Friedrichshain district in Berlin. A spokesperson of the cops told German daily that they want to prevent that supporters come to the squat. In Rigaer Strasse tension is high after authorities allowed to block the street for the coming 18 months for another gentrification project.

The old Teppich Fabrik in the  Friedrichshain district was quietly squatted several months ago. Owner of the building is Bernd Freier, founder and owner of the fashion company S.Oliver. The 2.2 billion strong owner wants the cops to evict the building but a planned eviction on August 3 didn’t take place. According to German media reports Freier did not go to court yet. Police authorities said they need a court decision before they can evict the building.

On July 28 there was a conflict between securities of the private company Kuhr Security. Cops came to the Teppich Fabrik and according to police authorities some objects were thrown. On the second of August riot cops in full gear blocked the entrance of the squat (image below) and electricity was cut off. But the squatters are highly motivated and want to continue the fight for free spaces in Berlin.

The owner of the building wants to build luxury apartments on the spot where the Teppich Fabrik is standing now. Another boost of the gentrification process in the Friedrichshain district. Activists are calling to come and support the Teppich Fabrik squat.

Tension is also high at Rigaer Strasse, which is also in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district. Local authorities closed the street with a wooden wall for the coming 18 months (pictures below). Investor company CG Gruppe requested the barricade in order to build luxury apartments in the Rigaer Strasse. Neighbours are protesting regularly with potts and pand against the closure of the street for another gentrification project in Friedrichshain. On the second of August activists blocked the Frankfurter Allee.

Civil- and riot cops are harassing people in the street. People are being beaten and detained without a warning. But the resistance will not stop. Today (August 5), at 5pm, there will be a meeting of neighbours to discuss further actions.

[Posted on August 5, 2017 by Enough is Enough!.]

Berlin: Riot cops around Teppich Fabrik Squat

House Occupation News -

Riot cops are patrolling around the squatted Teppich Fabrik (Carpet factory) in the Friedrichshain district in Berlin. A spokesperson of the cops told German daily that they want to prevent that supporters come to the squat. In Rigaer Strasse tension is high after authorities allowed to block the street for the coming 18 months for another gentrification project.

The old Teppich Fabrik in the  Friedrichshain district was quietly squatted several months ago. Owner of the building is Bernd Freier, founder and owner of the fashion company S.Oliver. The 2.2 billion strong owner wants the cops to evict the building but a planned eviction on August 3 didn’t take place. According to German media reports Freier did not go to court yet. Police authorities said they need a court decision before they can evict the building.

On July 28 there was a conflict between securities of the private company Kuhr Security. Cops came to the Teppich Fabrik and according to police authorities some objects were thrown. On the second of August riot cops in full gear blocked the entrance of the squat (image below) and electricity was cut off. But the squatters are highly motivated and want to continue the fight for free spaces in Berlin.

The owner of the building wants to build luxury apartments on the spot where the Teppich Fabrik is standing now. Another boost of the gentrification process in the Friedrichshain district. Activists are calling to come and support the Teppich Fabrik squat.

Tension is also high at Rigaer Strasse, which is also in Berlin’s Friedrichshain district. Local authorities closed the street with a wooden wall for the coming 18 months (pictures below). Investor company CG Gruppe requested the barricade in order to build luxury apartments in the Rigaer Strasse. Neighbours are protesting regularly with potts and pand against the closure of the street for another gentrification project in Friedrichshain. On the second of August activists blocked the Frankfurter Allee.

Civil- and riot cops are harassing people in the street. People are being beaten and detained without a warning. But the resistance will not stop. Today (August 5), at 5pm, there will be a meeting of neighbours to discuss further actions.

[Posted on August 5, 2017 by Enough is Enough!.]

Italy: To the international anarchist movement

House Occupation News -

Florence, April 21, 2016 2017: someone attacked the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, the Florentine suburbs, with a molotov.
Florence, January 1, 2017 an explosive device placed outside the bookshop “Il Bargello” near Casa Pound explodes in the hands of a policeman who is severely injured.
Following these two anonymous attacks, on the morning of August 3, 2017, eight comrades are imprisoned. The anarchists: Marina Porcu, Micol Marino, Pierloreto Fallanca (Pasca), Giovanni Ghezzi, Roberto Cropo, Salvatore Vespertino, Sandro Carovac, Nicola Almerigogna.
These comrades have been notified of accusations of attempted murder because of the wounding of the bomb disposal engineer Mario Vece, fabrication, detention and transportation of explosive devices, aggravated damage for the throwing of incendiary bottles against the Carabinieri barracks.

The names of the main inquisitors to have coordinated the investigations are:
Spina Eugenio (senior executive of the State police, head of counter-terrorism).
Pifferi Lucio (head of the D.I.G.O.S. in Florence).
Creazzo Giuseppe (chief prosecutor of Florence).

As anarchists we are not interested in knowing who did these actions, valid, concrete, alive. The Italian State after the continuation of Op. Scripta Manent, again strikes refractory comrades, who believe that direct, non-mediated and destructive action is a fundamental means of anarchist revolutionary struggle.
It should be noted that direct anarchist action against the State / Capital is less and less alive, hence, it is very easy for the repressive apparatus to do its job against those who support undisputed positions for the revolutionary path. It is crucial, as well as dutiful, not to mix anarchist comrades with the mere political juncture of antifascism and anti-repressive paths, which as anarchists do not belong to us. With this document we express our closeness to all those individualities who unconditionally beyond claiming action or not, act.

It is important to collectively claim these practices as part of the revolutionary anarchist struggle to avoid isolating our dear comrades. The reasons why our anarchism is partisan of illegalism and propaganda by the deed are something that we feel absolutely necessary, in the past as today, to make all possible efforts to propagate and spread the revolutionary anarchist idea with the word, publications, black powder.

So attack, arson, looting, and armed actions are an integral part of the war brought forth, no holds barred and without any more pre-established limits against the state. May the weapons of politics be abandoned and the politic of arms re-embraced in an indeterminist, conscious and constant manner.

Ahead international anarchist comrades, when the prisons no longer silence the thunder of dynamite, we will only be halfway. Let’s attack authority in whatever way it presents itself, without wasting time and with all the means at our disposal.

The rest?

The rest is just the small talk of anyone who always wants something new, but does not have the courage to take it here and now.

Anarchists

[Act for Free.]

Italy: To the international anarchist movement

House Occupation News -

Florence, April 21, 2016: someone attacked the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, the Florentine suburbs, with a molotov.
Florence, January 1, 2017 an explosive device placed outside the bookshop “Il Bargello” near Casa Pound explodes in the hands of a policeman who is severely injured.
Following these two anonymous attacks, on the morning of August 3, 2017, eight comrades are imprisoned. The anarchists: Marina Porcu, Micol Marino, Pierloreto Fallanca (Pasca), Giovanni Ghezzi, Roberto Cropo, Salvatore Vespertino, Sandro Carovac, Nicola Almerigogna.
These comrades have been notified of accusations of attempted murder because of the wounding of the bomb disposal engineer Mario Vece, fabrication, detention and transportation of explosive devices, aggravated damage for the throwing of incendiary bottles against the Carabinieri barracks.

The names of the main inquisitors to have coordinated the investigations are:
Spina Eugenio (senior executive of the State police, head of counter-terrorism).
Pifferi Lucio (head of the D.I.G.O.S. in Florence).
Creazzo Giuseppe (chief prosecutor of Florence).

As anarchists we are not interested in knowing who did these actions, valid, concrete, alive. The Italian State after the continuation of Op. Scripta Manent, again strikes refractory comrades, who believe that direct, non-mediated and destructive action is a fundamental means of anarchist revolutionary struggle.
It should be noted that direct anarchist action against the State / Capital is less and less alive, hence, it is very easy for the repressive apparatus to do its job against those who support undisputed positions for the revolutionary path. It is crucial, as well as dutiful, not to mix anarchist comrades with the mere political juncture of antifascism and anti-repressive paths, which as anarchists do not belong to us. With this document we express our closeness to all those individualities who unconditionally beyond claiming action or not, act.

It is important to collectively claim these practices as part of the revolutionary anarchist struggle to avoid isolating our dear comrades. The reasons why our anarchism is partisan of illegalism and propaganda by the deed are something that we feel absolutely necessary, in the past as today, to make all possible efforts to propagate and spread the revolutionary anarchist idea with the word, publications, black powder.

So attack, arson, looting, and armed actions are an integral part of the war brought forth, no holds barred and without any more pre-established limits against the state. May the weapons of politics be abandoned and the politic of arms re-embraced in an indeterminist, conscious and constant manner.

Ahead international anarchist comrades, when the prisons no longer silence the thunder of dynamite, we will only be halfway. Let’s attack authority in whatever way it presents itself, without wasting time and with all the means at our disposal.

The rest?

The rest is just the small talk of anyone who always wants something new, but does not have the courage to take it here and now.

Anarchists

http://actforfree.nostate.net/?p=27928

Lecce: Police operation against La Caura

House Occupation News -

On Thursday 3rd August at 6:30am the Digos of Lecce and an antiterrorism special squad (UOPI) wearing balaclavas and armed with machineguns stormed La Caura (Roca-Lecce). The police forced those present to lie face down on the floor, then took a comrade, Paska, away who is now being held in the Lecce prison.
The episode occurred at the same time as that at La Riottosa in Florence, where another 7 comrades were arrested, while one was arrested in Rome. The police operation refers to an explosive attack on ”Il Bargello” [neo-nazi] bookshop, a Casapound place, in Florence (1st January 2017), when an incompetent bomb disposal expert was injured, and to an incendiary bottle against the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, Florence (21st April 2017).
The police chief of Lecce immediately took the chance to threaten the new squat (La Caura), opened just ten days ago, with eviction, as happened with La Riottosa.
At around 2pm about thirty people went outside the prison in Lecce in solidarity for a quick greeting to the prisoners. And another gathering is to take place today 4th August at 6pm.

Solidarity with Micol, Marina, Sandro, Nicola, Roberto, Paska, Giovanni, Vespertino.

Freedom for all.

The current addresses to write to the comrades are:

NICOLA ALMERIGOGNA

GIOVANNI GHEZZI

SANDRO CAROVAC

SALVATORE VESPERTINO

MICOL MARINO

MARINA PORCU

C.C. Sollicciano

Via Minervini 2r

50142 Florence

Italy

—————-

ROBERTO CROPO

C.C. Regina Coeli

Via della Lungara 29

00165 Rome

Italy

—————

PIERLORETO FALLANCA (PASKA)

Via Paolo Perrone 4

73100 Lecce

Italy

http://actforfree.nostate.net/?p=27921

Lecce: Police operation against La Caura

House Occupation News -

On Thursday 3rd August at 6:30am the Digos of Lecce and an antiterrorism special squad (UOPI) wearing balaclavas and armed with machineguns stormed La Caura (Roca-Lecce). The police forced those present to lie face down on the floor, then took a comrade, Paska, away who is now being held in the Lecce prison.
The episode occurred at the same time as that at La Riottosa in Florence, where another 7 comrades were arrested, while one was arrested in Rome. The police operation refers to an explosive attack on ”Il Bargello” [neo-nazi] bookshop, a Casapound place, in Florence (1st January 2017), when an incompetent bomb disposal expert was injured, and to an incendiary bottle against the carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano, Florence (21st April 2017).
The police chief of Lecce immediately took the chance to threaten the new squat (La Caura), opened just ten days ago, with eviction, as happened with La Riottosa.
At around 2pm about thirty people went outside the prison in Lecce in solidarity for a quick greeting to the prisoners. And another gathering is to take place today 4th August at 6pm.

Solidarity with Micol, Marina, Sandro, Nicola, Roberto, Paska, Giovanni, Vespertino.

Freedom for all.

The current addresses to write to the comrades are:

NICOLA ALMERIGOGNA

GIOVANNI GHEZZI

SANDRO CAROVAC

SALVATORE VESPERTINO

MICOL MARINO

MARINA PORCU

C.C. Sollicciano

Via Minervini 2r

50142 Florence

Italy

—————-

ROBERTO CROPO

C.C. Regina Coeli

Via della Lungara 29

00165 Rome

Italy

—————

PIERLORETO FALLANCA (PASKA)

Via Paolo Perrone 4

73100 Lecce

Italy

http://actforfree.nostate.net/?p=27921

South Africa: The ‘Boiketlong Four’ and the Criminalisation of Poverty and Protest

House Occupation News -

In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

The Boiketlong Four
In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

Evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was shaky and state witnesses either couldn’t identify the four accused or place them at the scene at the time. To convict them the state used the 1973 apartheid law of so-called ‘common purpose’, meaning they were found guilty simply because they were leaders of the community; even though no evidence conclusively connecting the four with the burning of the councillor’s house or cars was presented. At least one of the four, Dinah Makhetha, was not even present at the time.

The key witness willing to testify that Dinah was not present at the councillor’s home at the time it was razed, Papi Tobias, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in February 2016 and has not been seen since. He is believed to be dead.

In June 2015, the Boiketlong Four applied for bail and for Leave to Appeal both the conviction and the sentence. Leave to Appeal the conviction was granted, but not to appeal the severity of the sentence – meaning that if their appeal of the conviction failed they would have to serve the full 16 year term in prison. Bail was also denied.

To apply for bail and to petition for full Leave to Appeal were High Court processes which placed a huge financial and emotional burden on the poor working class families of the accused. A fundraising committee was established to raise money from within the community in order to pay for legal and related expenses.

After 9 months in prison the four activists were released on bail in October 2015.

Then, on 19 June 2017, two of the four were arrested again and thrown back in prison – where they currently remain. We urgently need to demand they be released on bail immediately and to have the conviction overturned.

Neoliberalism, corruption and the criminalisation of poverty and protest
The Boiketlong Four were leading community activists in the struggle for housing, development in the township and for what the ANC government has been promising them – and the black working class and poor across South Africa – for over 20 years. That, being poor and struggling to change their conditions and uplift themselves and their community were their only ‘crimes’. It is believed that they were targeted in a politically motivated move by the state, at the behest of the local ANC, to suppress and criminalise their activities as activists because of their role in opposing the anti-poor policies of the neoliberal ANC government and exposing and challenging the corruption of local political elites. They are not criminals, they are political/class struggle prisoners.

They were unfairly charged due to their role in community protests that are caused by unfair treatment, corruption and maladministration. The black working class in South Africa has had enough of suffering the brunt of poverty and inequality but when we take to the streets we suffer the repressive might of the state and police brutality. The politicians supposedly put in power to serve the community quickly forget about doing so because they are living the life of luxury.

Our brothers and sisters who take up the fight for justice should not be the ones punished for these actions. The 1994 tripartite regime said it would not do what the National Party did to the black working class in South Africa, but over twenty years later we are experiencing almost the same treatment. The enemy has proven to be the ruling party and the private capitalists.

Like so many townships, rural areas and poor communities across South Africa, the black working class and poor community of Boiketlong has long suffered from the broken promises of the ANC government. Since the first multiracial elections in 1994, the ANC has repeatedly been re-elected on the backs of empty promises of service delivery, job creation and to develop and upgrade townships and other underdeveloped areas that have long suffered a lack of access to decent and affordable sanitation, water, electricity and housing as well as education and health care etc. as part of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid capitalism.

Faced with increased discontent and protest in response to its own lack of political will and its inability, due to the anti-working class neoliberal policies it has adopted, to even begin to fulfill its promises and implement wide-scale development, upgrading of townships, land reform, service delivery and job creation across the country the ANC government is increasingly responding with the criminalisation of protest – and the poor – in order to suppress and contain social struggles and working class resistance.

This is because of two major processes the political elite is involved in: using the state for private accumulation and enforcing neoliberal policies designed to redirect wealth upwards, away from the black working class and poor to the ruling class – made up of white, and now black, private capitalists as well as politicians and state managers. This is in order to recover profitability and maintain profits by transferring the costs of the economic crisis onto the working class, particularly the black section. It does this through commercialisation and privatisation, the flexibilisation of labour, austerity budgeting and cuts in social spending, outsourcing and aggressive cost recovery measures etc.

At local level outsourcing has led to contracts and tenders for housing, service delivery and infrastructure development being handed out to politically connected individuals and company owners, particularly the new BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) elite, resulting in nepotism, corruption and patronage becoming widespread. In order to make as much profit as possible through these contracts these BEE ‘tenderpreneurs’ cut costs by exploiting workers, using the cheapest available materials and cutting corners in terms of safety and standards. This is why so many RDP houses are cracking and falling apart and why service delivery in black working class townships is so terrible.

The political elite at local, provincial and national levels – both ANC and, in some areas, the DA – uses its access to and control of state resources to accumulate private wealth and entrench their power and control of the state and its resources. This is what “corruption” means, and it is done at the expense of the black working class and poor – who get nothing but shoddy housing, poor service delivery and state repression if they rise up.

In the context of the global capitalist crisis and dwindling state resources there is an increasing struggle between political elites to hold onto power and access to limited resources. It is this competition for access to state power and resources for self-enrichment that has led to the factional battles that we are currently witnessing between the two main rival factions of the ANC – those around Jacob Zuma and those around Cyril Ramaphosa.

However, under the smoke and mirrors, both of these factions and the two wings of the ruling class – state managers/political elite/politicians, on the one hand, and private capitalists/economic elite/bosses, on the other – both depend on exploiting the working class and poor and on the model of cheap black labour, part of which involves massive underspending on townships.

This can only be ended by consistent and independent class struggle and resistance and that is exactly what the ruling class fears – and why the state and political elite that controls it are increasingly resorting to the criminalisation of poverty and protest to suppress working class resistance.

The ANC government wants to make an example of the Boitketlong Four in order to send a strong message to the poor, the unemployed and the marginalised youth leading and participating in struggles for land and housing, jobs and service delivery. The message is that if you dare to organise or engage in social struggles in pursuit of your rights, to expose or simply speak out against the rampant corruption of the political elite, you will be dealt with swiftly and harshly. The heavy sentences handed down to the Boiketlong Four and the denial of bail and Leave to Appeal are all intended to intimidate and deter others from independent working class resistance and protest.

It is therefore of utmost importance that class struggle militants do everything within our means to campaign to have the conviction and sentence overturned – because if we don’t the state will use this case as a precedent in order to further criminalise poverty and protest and more and more people will be thrown in prison on so-called criminal charges and slapped with harsh sentences for protesting their poverty and fighting for their rights.

Justice for Papi Tobias
On the evening of 6 February 2016, Papi Tobias left his home in Boiketlong to go watch soccer at a local tavern. He was last seen leaving the tavern in the presence of Sebokeng Police Station commander Brigadier Jan Scheepers.

Papi, a father of three, was also a leading community activist in the struggle for housing and development in the township and was often at the forefront of service delivery protests.

He was also one of the people on the committee tasked with raising funds for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses. Six days before his disappearance Papi had attended a heated community meeting, called by the local mayor, in which he criticised the fundraising committee for misusing the money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s defence. He also reportedly said that the community was “threatened and lied to” by the committee, that it had “in fact elected itself because it is not ours, the people’s” and that “the wrong people were arrested”.

Papi had also said to Brigadier Scheepers, to the attorney then dealing with the Boiketlong Four case, to a paralegal at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre and at public meetings that he was willing to testify that Dinah was not in the vicinity of the councillor’s house when it was set on fire and that she and the other three were wrongfully accused.

It is alleged that one of the fundraising committee members suspected of misusing the funds, a local ANC leader and member of the ANC-dominated Boiketlong Concern Group, is behind Papi’s disappearance; and that he told the family that Brigadier Scheepers knew as to Papi’s whereabouts shortly after his disappearance. It is suspected that, in addition to the committee member, Brigadier Scheepers and the Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, Simon Mofokeng, are also implicated in the kidnapping.

Shortly before his disappearance Papi’s dog was killed and a member of the Boiketlong Concern Group said they had heard rumors that Papi’s life was in danger prior to his disappearance.

Papi has been missing for well over a year now and is believed to be dead. His disappearance and suspected murder are almost certainly politically motivated and linked to his role in struggling for service delivery, housing and development in the township and for exposing the mayor and fundraising committee members for alleged corruption or misusing money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses.

The police investigators handling the case appear to have made little effort to establish Papi’s fate or whereabouts and no investigation seems to be underway. To date nobody has been arrested or charged in relation to Papi’s disappearance.

Freedom for Dinah and Sipho
Since being released on bail in October 2015 one of the accused, Pulane Mahlangu, has skipped bail and disappeared. Another, Dan Sekuti Molefe, passed away in December 2016. He had been ill prior to his arrest and it is sure that the stress of his conviction, the violence and suffering of 9 months in prison and the prospect of spending another 16 years there helped kill him.

On 6 June 2017, a Leave to Appeal hearing for the remaining two accused, Sipho Sydney Manganye and Dinah Makhetha, took place at the North Gauteng High Court to appeal the 16 year sentence. The application was dismissed and they were ordered to hand themselves over to the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June.

On 15 June, Dinah and Sipho met with their advocate from Legal Aid SA, who told them he was going to apply for an extension of their bail at the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June. However, the Magistrate refused the extension of bail because the application should have been brought at the North Gauteng High Court as that is where bail was initially granted. Dinah and Sipho were re-arrested and thrown back into prison.

Dinah and Sipho’s pro-bono legal representatives, Legal Aid SA, should have applied to the High Court to extend bail pending the petition being heard at Sebokeng but this doesn’t seem to have been done and the accused have now been languishing in prison, for the second time, for over a month.

While previously out on bail Sipho seems to have been co-opted by the local ANC elite, who gave him employment in a development project in the township – a tactic regularly used by local political elites to co-opt activists and draw them away from activism and struggle in order to neutralise the threat they pose both to the dominance of the local political elite and their opportunities for accumulating wealth through their access to state resources and tenders. Sipho, perhaps out of desperation, reportedly began singing praises for the mayor and saying that he cares for the people. He no longer seems to be interested in social struggle and community activism.

That certainly doesn’t mean he should be left to go to prison without support, though, but it seems he was fooled into thinking that the ANC and local political elite would help him if he stopped his involvement in community struggles.

Sipho’s defence, unfortunately, is also not as strong as Dinah’s and the advocate has not been able to find grounds to challenge his conviction on two of the four counts against him – assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and arson. This means that, even if the advocate is successful in appealing the other two counts against him he could still face 10 years in prison.

Dinah, a long-standing community activist and former member of the now defunct Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), however, has remained unflinching in her commitment to social justice and working class militancy and, despite what is effectively an apartheid-era banning order preventing her from attending community or political meetings, protests etc., she remained involved in community organisation and activism while out on bail.

Dinah’s defence is also very strong and the advocate has found convincing grounds on which to challenge all four of the counts she was convicted of.

It is vitally important that we do everything in our power to show immediate solidarity and support for both Dinah and Sipho and to ensure that they are granted bail while awaiting Leave to Appeal their conviction and that the charges against them are withdrawn and they are declared innocent.

Dinah and Sipho are political prisoners of the capitalist state, which wants to make an example of them. Their fate will help determine the fate of many more community activists and poor township residents that engage in social struggles and protests to come. If their conviction and sentences are not overturned more working class militants and people arrested during protests could face equally harsh sentences.

Dinah and Sipho will be appearing at the Sebokeng District Court on Wednesday 26 July to have their application for extension of bail heard. A demonstration at the court is being planned for the day and we call on our comrades, allies and all freedom and justice loving people worldwide to do whatever they can on, before and after Wednesday 26 July to show solidarity with Sipho and Dinah and to demand justice both for them and Papi. We should also demand that a date be set for their appeal of the conviction and sentence to be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal as soon as possible and appeal to you and your organisations to organise solidarity actions and activities and show support for Dinah and Sipho leading up to and on the day of their appeal. We will communicate the date for the appeal once it has been set.

FREEDOM FOR DINAH AND SIPHO! JUSTICE FOR PAPI!
STOP THE CRIMINALISATION OF POVERTY AND PROTEST!
DEFEND OUR RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND PROTEST!

What you can do:

Picket and demonstrate outside South African Embassies abroad on and in the days and weeks following Wednesday 26 July;
Email and fax the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development demanding Sipho and Dinah be given an extension of bail on Wednesday 26 July;
Disseminate this call for solidarity on social media and in your organisations, networks and movements;
Write letters and articles about the case and publish them in alternative and, where possible, mainstream newspapers, magazines etc.;
Discuss the case and the call for solidarity on podcasts and community radio, at student/worker/community meetings, at demonstrations etc.;
Take photographs of solidarity activities and actions, or of yourself or your organisation holding placards with messages of support or demanding Sipho and Dinah be released on bail and that their conviction be overturned and publish them on social media with the hashtags and handles below;
Write letters of support to Dinah, Sipho and/or to Papi’s family and email them to zacf[at]riseup.net and orangefarmadvicecentre[at]gmail.com to have them given to the recipients;
Put pressure on Legal Aid SA to prioritise the case by phoning them, sending them emails and faxes to put pressure on them constantly to ensure that they are prioritising the case;
Make the South African government know that this case is in the international spotlight by phoning, emailing and faxing the Presidency and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to demand the conviction be overturned, the charges dropped and a full scale investigation into the fate of Paps Tobias be launched.
On social media use the hashtags #Boiketlong4Solidarity #Boiketlong4 #FreedomforDinahandSipho #JusticeforPapiTobias and the Twitter handles @PresidencyZA @GovernmentZA @EmfuleniLM @DOJCD_ZA @LegalAidSA1 @ZabalazaNews

CONTACT DETAILS:

The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 300 5200
Fax: +27 12 323 8246
Email: president [at] presidency [dot] gov [dot] za

Office of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
Tel: +27 12 308 5316
E-mail: Deputypresident [at] presidency [dot] gov [dot] za

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services
Tel: +27 12 406 4669
Fax: +27 12 406 4680
E-mail: ministry [at] justice [dot] gov [dot] za

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development
Tel: +27 12 406 4854
Fax: +27 12 406 4878
E-mail: deputyminister [at] justice [dot] gov [dot] za

Legal Aid South Africa Head Office
Tel: +27 11 877 2000

Legal Aid SA Pretoria Justice Centre
Tel: +27 12 401 9200
Fax: +27 12 324 1950

Legal Aid SA Vereeniging Justice Centre
Tel: +27 16 421 3527
Fax: +27 16 421 4287

https://zabalaza.net/2017/07/25/call-for-solidarity-the-boiketlong-four-and-the-criminalisation-of-poverty-and-protest/

South Africa: The ‘Boiketlong Four’ and the Criminalisation of Poverty and Protest

House Occupation News -

In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

The Boiketlong Four
In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.

Evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was shaky and state witnesses either couldn’t identify the four accused or place them at the scene at the time. To convict them the state used the 1973 apartheid law of so-called ‘common purpose’, meaning they were found guilty simply because they were leaders of the community; even though no evidence conclusively connecting the four with the burning of the councillor’s house or cars was presented. At least one of the four, Dinah Makhetha, was not even present at the time.

The key witness willing to testify that Dinah was not present at the councillor’s home at the time it was razed, Papi Tobias, disappeared under mysterious circumstances in February 2016 and has not been seen since. He is believed to be dead.

In June 2015, the Boiketlong Four applied for bail and for Leave to Appeal both the conviction and the sentence. Leave to Appeal the conviction was granted, but not to appeal the severity of the sentence – meaning that if their appeal of the conviction failed they would have to serve the full 16 year term in prison. Bail was also denied.

To apply for bail and to petition for full Leave to Appeal were High Court processes which placed a huge financial and emotional burden on the poor working class families of the accused. A fundraising committee was established to raise money from within the community in order to pay for legal and related expenses.

After 9 months in prison the four activists were released on bail in October 2015.

Then, on 19 June 2017, two of the four were arrested again and thrown back in prison – where they currently remain. We urgently need to demand they be released on bail immediately and to have the conviction overturned.

Neoliberalism, corruption and the criminalisation of poverty and protest
The Boiketlong Four were leading community activists in the struggle for housing, development in the township and for what the ANC government has been promising them – and the black working class and poor across South Africa – for over 20 years. That, being poor and struggling to change their conditions and uplift themselves and their community were their only ‘crimes’. It is believed that they were targeted in a politically motivated move by the state, at the behest of the local ANC, to suppress and criminalise their activities as activists because of their role in opposing the anti-poor policies of the neoliberal ANC government and exposing and challenging the corruption of local political elites. They are not criminals, they are political/class struggle prisoners.

They were unfairly charged due to their role in community protests that are caused by unfair treatment, corruption and maladministration. The black working class in South Africa has had enough of suffering the brunt of poverty and inequality but when we take to the streets we suffer the repressive might of the state and police brutality. The politicians supposedly put in power to serve the community quickly forget about doing so because they are living the life of luxury.

Our brothers and sisters who take up the fight for justice should not be the ones punished for these actions. The 1994 tripartite regime said it would not do what the National Party did to the black working class in South Africa, but over twenty years later we are experiencing almost the same treatment. The enemy has proven to be the ruling party and the private capitalists.

Like so many townships, rural areas and poor communities across South Africa, the black working class and poor community of Boiketlong has long suffered from the broken promises of the ANC government. Since the first multiracial elections in 1994, the ANC has repeatedly been re-elected on the backs of empty promises of service delivery, job creation and to develop and upgrade townships and other underdeveloped areas that have long suffered a lack of access to decent and affordable sanitation, water, electricity and housing as well as education and health care etc. as part of the legacy of colonialism and apartheid capitalism.

Faced with increased discontent and protest in response to its own lack of political will and its inability, due to the anti-working class neoliberal policies it has adopted, to even begin to fulfill its promises and implement wide-scale development, upgrading of townships, land reform, service delivery and job creation across the country the ANC government is increasingly responding with the criminalisation of protest – and the poor – in order to suppress and contain social struggles and working class resistance.

This is because of two major processes the political elite is involved in: using the state for private accumulation and enforcing neoliberal policies designed to redirect wealth upwards, away from the black working class and poor to the ruling class – made up of white, and now black, private capitalists as well as politicians and state managers. This is in order to recover profitability and maintain profits by transferring the costs of the economic crisis onto the working class, particularly the black section. It does this through commercialisation and privatisation, the flexibilisation of labour, austerity budgeting and cuts in social spending, outsourcing and aggressive cost recovery measures etc.

At local level outsourcing has led to contracts and tenders for housing, service delivery and infrastructure development being handed out to politically connected individuals and company owners, particularly the new BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) elite, resulting in nepotism, corruption and patronage becoming widespread. In order to make as much profit as possible through these contracts these BEE ‘tenderpreneurs’ cut costs by exploiting workers, using the cheapest available materials and cutting corners in terms of safety and standards. This is why so many RDP houses are cracking and falling apart and why service delivery in black working class townships is so terrible.

The political elite at local, provincial and national levels – both ANC and, in some areas, the DA – uses its access to and control of state resources to accumulate private wealth and entrench their power and control of the state and its resources. This is what “corruption” means, and it is done at the expense of the black working class and poor – who get nothing but shoddy housing, poor service delivery and state repression if they rise up.

In the context of the global capitalist crisis and dwindling state resources there is an increasing struggle between political elites to hold onto power and access to limited resources. It is this competition for access to state power and resources for self-enrichment that has led to the factional battles that we are currently witnessing between the two main rival factions of the ANC – those around Jacob Zuma and those around Cyril Ramaphosa.

However, under the smoke and mirrors, both of these factions and the two wings of the ruling class – state managers/political elite/politicians, on the one hand, and private capitalists/economic elite/bosses, on the other – both depend on exploiting the working class and poor and on the model of cheap black labour, part of which involves massive underspending on townships.

This can only be ended by consistent and independent class struggle and resistance and that is exactly what the ruling class fears – and why the state and political elite that controls it are increasingly resorting to the criminalisation of poverty and protest to suppress working class resistance.

The ANC government wants to make an example of the Boitketlong Four in order to send a strong message to the poor, the unemployed and the marginalised youth leading and participating in struggles for land and housing, jobs and service delivery. The message is that if you dare to organise or engage in social struggles in pursuit of your rights, to expose or simply speak out against the rampant corruption of the political elite, you will be dealt with swiftly and harshly. The heavy sentences handed down to the Boiketlong Four and the denial of bail and Leave to Appeal are all intended to intimidate and deter others from independent working class resistance and protest.

It is therefore of utmost importance that class struggle militants do everything within our means to campaign to have the conviction and sentence overturned – because if we don’t the state will use this case as a precedent in order to further criminalise poverty and protest and more and more people will be thrown in prison on so-called criminal charges and slapped with harsh sentences for protesting their poverty and fighting for their rights.

Justice for Papi Tobias
On the evening of 6 February 2016, Papi Tobias left his home in Boiketlong to go watch soccer at a local tavern. He was last seen leaving the tavern in the presence of Sebokeng Police Station commander Brigadier Jan Scheepers.

Papi, a father of three, was also a leading community activist in the struggle for housing and development in the township and was often at the forefront of service delivery protests.

He was also one of the people on the committee tasked with raising funds for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses. Six days before his disappearance Papi had attended a heated community meeting, called by the local mayor, in which he criticised the fundraising committee for misusing the money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s defence. He also reportedly said that the community was “threatened and lied to” by the committee, that it had “in fact elected itself because it is not ours, the people’s” and that “the wrong people were arrested”.

Papi had also said to Brigadier Scheepers, to the attorney then dealing with the Boiketlong Four case, to a paralegal at the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre and at public meetings that he was willing to testify that Dinah was not in the vicinity of the councillor’s house when it was set on fire and that she and the other three were wrongfully accused.

It is alleged that one of the fundraising committee members suspected of misusing the funds, a local ANC leader and member of the ANC-dominated Boiketlong Concern Group, is behind Papi’s disappearance; and that he told the family that Brigadier Scheepers knew as to Papi’s whereabouts shortly after his disappearance. It is suspected that, in addition to the committee member, Brigadier Scheepers and the Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, Simon Mofokeng, are also implicated in the kidnapping.

Shortly before his disappearance Papi’s dog was killed and a member of the Boiketlong Concern Group said they had heard rumors that Papi’s life was in danger prior to his disappearance.

Papi has been missing for well over a year now and is believed to be dead. His disappearance and suspected murder are almost certainly politically motivated and linked to his role in struggling for service delivery, housing and development in the township and for exposing the mayor and fundraising committee members for alleged corruption or misusing money raised for the Boiketlong Four’s legal expenses.

The police investigators handling the case appear to have made little effort to establish Papi’s fate or whereabouts and no investigation seems to be underway. To date nobody has been arrested or charged in relation to Papi’s disappearance.

Freedom for Dinah and Sipho
Since being released on bail in October 2015 one of the accused, Pulane Mahlangu, has skipped bail and disappeared. Another, Dan Sekuti Molefe, passed away in December 2016. He had been ill prior to his arrest and it is sure that the stress of his conviction, the violence and suffering of 9 months in prison and the prospect of spending another 16 years there helped kill him.

On 6 June 2017, a Leave to Appeal hearing for the remaining two accused, Sipho Sydney Manganye and Dinah Makhetha, took place at the North Gauteng High Court to appeal the 16 year sentence. The application was dismissed and they were ordered to hand themselves over to the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June.

On 15 June, Dinah and Sipho met with their advocate from Legal Aid SA, who told them he was going to apply for an extension of their bail at the Sebokeng Regional Court on 19 June. However, the Magistrate refused the extension of bail because the application should have been brought at the North Gauteng High Court as that is where bail was initially granted. Dinah and Sipho were re-arrested and thrown back into prison.

Dinah and Sipho’s pro-bono legal representatives, Legal Aid SA, should have applied to the High Court to extend bail pending the petition being heard at Sebokeng but this doesn’t seem to have been done and the accused have now been languishing in prison, for the second time, for over a month.

While previously out on bail Sipho seems to have been co-opted by the local ANC elite, who gave him employment in a development project in the township – a tactic regularly used by local political elites to co-opt activists and draw them away from activism and struggle in order to neutralise the threat they pose both to the dominance of the local political elite and their opportunities for accumulating wealth through their access to state resources and tenders. Sipho, perhaps out of desperation, reportedly began singing praises for the mayor and saying that he cares for the people. He no longer seems to be interested in social struggle and community activism.

That certainly doesn’t mean he should be left to go to prison without support, though, but it seems he was fooled into thinking that the ANC and local political elite would help him if he stopped his involvement in community struggles.

Sipho’s defence, unfortunately, is also not as strong as Dinah’s and the advocate has not been able to find grounds to challenge his conviction on two of the four counts against him – assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and arson. This means that, even if the advocate is successful in appealing the other two counts against him he could still face 10 years in prison.

Dinah, a long-standing community activist and former member of the now defunct Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), however, has remained unflinching in her commitment to social justice and working class militancy and, despite what is effectively an apartheid-era banning order preventing her from attending community or political meetings, protests etc., she remained involved in community organisation and activism while out on bail.

Dinah’s defence is also very strong and the advocate has found convincing grounds on which to challenge all four of the counts she was convicted of.

It is vitally important that we do everything in our power to show immediate solidarity and support for both Dinah and Sipho and to ensure that they are granted bail while awaiting Leave to Appeal their conviction and that the charges against them are withdrawn and they are declared innocent.

Dinah and Sipho are political prisoners of the capitalist state, which wants to make an example of them. Their fate will help determine the fate of many more community activists and poor township residents that engage in social struggles and protests to come. If their conviction and sentences are not overturned more working class militants and people arrested during protests could face equally harsh sentences.

Dinah and Sipho will be appearing at the Sebokeng District Court on Wednesday 26 July to have their application for extension of bail heard. A demonstration at the court is being planned for the day and we call on our comrades, allies and all freedom and justice loving people worldwide to do whatever they can on, before and after Wednesday 26 July to show solidarity with Sipho and Dinah and to demand justice both for them and Papi. We should also demand that a date be set for their appeal of the conviction and sentence to be heard by the Supreme Court of Appeal as soon as possible and appeal to you and your organisations to organise solidarity actions and activities and show support for Dinah and Sipho leading up to and on the day of their appeal. We will communicate the date for the appeal once it has been set.

FREEDOM FOR DINAH AND SIPHO! JUSTICE FOR PAPI!
STOP THE CRIMINALISATION OF POVERTY AND PROTEST!
DEFEND OUR RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION, ASSOCIATION AND PROTEST!

What you can do:

Picket and demonstrate outside South African Embassies abroad on and in the days and weeks following Wednesday 26 July;
Email and fax the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development demanding Sipho and Dinah be given an extension of bail on Wednesday 26 July;
Disseminate this call for solidarity on social media and in your organisations, networks and movements;
Write letters and articles about the case and publish them in alternative and, where possible, mainstream newspapers, magazines etc.;
Discuss the case and the call for solidarity on podcasts and community radio, at student/worker/community meetings, at demonstrations etc.;
Take photographs of solidarity activities and actions, or of yourself or your organisation holding placards with messages of support or demanding Sipho and Dinah be released on bail and that their conviction be overturned and publish them on social media with the hashtags and handles below;
Write letters of support to Dinah, Sipho and/or to Papi’s family and email them to zacf[at]riseup.net and orangefarmadvicecentre[at]gmail.com to have them given to the recipients;
Put pressure on Legal Aid SA to prioritise the case by phoning them, sending them emails and faxes to put pressure on them constantly to ensure that they are prioritising the case;
Make the South African government know that this case is in the international spotlight by phoning, emailing and faxing the Presidency and the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development to demand the conviction be overturned, the charges dropped and a full scale investigation into the fate of Paps Tobias be launched.
On social media use the hashtags #Boiketlong4Solidarity #Boiketlong4 #FreedomforDinahandSipho #JusticeforPapiTobias and the Twitter handles @PresidencyZA @GovernmentZA @EmfuleniLM @DOJCD_ZA @LegalAidSA1 @ZabalazaNews

CONTACT DETAILS:

The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa
Tel: +27 12 300 5200
Fax: +27 12 323 8246
Email: president [at] presidency [dot] gov [dot] za

Office of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa
Tel: +27 12 308 5316
E-mail: Deputypresident [at] presidency [dot] gov [dot] za

Minister of Justice and Correctional Services
Tel: +27 12 406 4669
Fax: +27 12 406 4680
E-mail: ministry [at] justice [dot] gov [dot] za

Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development
Tel: +27 12 406 4854
Fax: +27 12 406 4878
E-mail: deputyminister [at] justice [dot] gov [dot] za

Legal Aid South Africa Head Office
Tel: +27 11 877 2000

Legal Aid SA Pretoria Justice Centre
Tel: +27 12 401 9200
Fax: +27 12 324 1950

Legal Aid SA Vereeniging Justice Centre
Tel: +27 16 421 3527
Fax: +27 16 421 4287

https://zabalaza.net/2017/07/25/call-for-solidarity-the-boiketlong-four-and-the-criminalisation-of-poverty-and-protest/

Sahrawi refugees build their nation in exile

Waging Nonviolence -

by Phil Wilmot

Embed from Getty Images

When my Skype connection with Sahrawi journalist Malainin Lakhal was faltering, I thought surely it must be on his end. After all, I was using an internet cafe in Uganda’s largest city, and he was calling from a refugee camp in the middle of the Algerian desert. My assumptions, however, were quickly dispelled, as I realized my problems weren’t limited to Skype and — more importantly — one should never underestimate Sahrawi ingenuity.

“The Sahrawi [refugees in Algeria] started using internet and building websites in many cases before the Algerians themselves,” Lakhal explained. When Algeria finally invested in 4G infrastructure, the displaced Sahrawis pulled contributions together and paid for installation in the settlements.

This seems to be the trend of the Tindouf camps: Sahrawis identify needs and work together to provide them.

“This 200,000-person camp is run by the refugees themselves,” Lakhal continued. “Any international organizations that come in do so as partners — not as leaders.”

From a camp of the exiled to a permanent settlement

Only Palestinian camps surpass the Sahrawi refugee settlement in age. Western Sahara was supposed to see an end to Spanish colonial rule in 1975, but an immediate invasion by Moroccan forces pushed the masses of Sahrawis into exile. To this day, the Moroccan monarchy claims Western Sahara as its own territory — sometimes kidnapping political dissidents and holding and trying them in Rabat, Morocco’s capital. Last month, for instance, 20 Sahrawi activists were handed 30-year sentences.

Meanwhile, Spain has been supportive of the Moroccan occupation. On June 20, International Day of Refugees, Madrid’s largest newspaper El País published a list of the world’s 10 largest refugee camps, suspiciously omitting Tindouf, which — according to Algeria’s estimates — should place it as number three.

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The media blackout of Western Sahara in mainstream news sources affords Spain distance from its colonial past, but some residents of Madrid — thanks to an international program called Holiday in Peace — are welcoming Sahrawi children in an effort to change the situation. In addition to giving the children a break from the desert heat, which can hit 120 degrees in the summer months, the program is strengthening relationships across borders, encouraging remittances and raising awareness of Spain’s compliance with the Moroccan occupation.

These children are not the first to advocate for their people, but simply the next generation of those born into a half-century of exile. Lakhal was among the many abductees who struggled for self-determination following the Moroccan invasion.

“I was born in the occupied zone and was active organizing student groups,” he said. “On January 4, 1992, I was kidnapped by Moroccan police, imprisoned with other young people and subjected to all kinds of torture. This experience made my conviction even stronger.”

Lakhal eventually escaped through a three-day desert journey and joined the Sahrawi Press Service, which was established in the camps in 1999 with the help of Spanish and Swiss allies. He then founded the Sahrawi Journalist and Writers Union, where he worked internationally for eight years.

“Many human rights organizations and groups in the camps are not legally registered because Morocco does not permit them to register, but they find ways of doing their work.”

The camps became a kind of autonomous zone, known to Sahrawis as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, or RASD. Most Tindouf residents 20 years old or less know no other home. Five wilayas, or districts, are named after towns of Western Sahara: Laayoune, Awserd, Smara, Dakhla and Cape Bojador — some of which lie within an hour drive of the actual city of Tindouf, whose population is dwarfed by that of the Sahrawi camps.

With the majority of the Sahrawi population now members of the diaspora, there was a pressing need to develop institutions that provide social services. But the Sahrawis didn’t want to wait for outside help.

Health, education and gender justice

“Our health system is good if we compare it with those of many countries in the world,” said Larosi Abdalahe, who helped organize demonstrations in the early 2000s, following the kidnapping and sentencing of his friend by occupying Moroccan forces. “We practice a preventive approach to health which follows women from the fourth month of pregnancy until two years after the baby is born.”

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Despite the irregular access to electricity and insufficient supply of medical equipment, Minister of Health Sid’Ahmed Tayeb managed to build a geographically dispersed health care infrastructure, with clinics in each sub-district. He began with only seven nurses and medical students, but now supplements emergency care with preventative care, facilitating community education programs throughout the camps.

Health is approached holistically, rather than compartmentalized as an abstract part of life. To support better nutrition of refugees, one hundred acres of land is being cultivated under the watch of Sahwari irrigation technicians. This also reduces dependency on food aid in a hostile desert environment with scorching summers and freezing winters. Traditional healers also have their place in the health care system, although modern medicine professionals often don’t appreciate them.

While three central camp hospitals — largely built and operated by women — also train refugees in medical skills, the education system covers much more than health.

Without many books or materials, Sahrawi refugees organized functioning schools from the nursery to secondary levels, supplemented by vocational programs and classes for adults. According to Oxfam, the literacy rate — once lingering around 5 percent under Spanish rule prior to the Moroccan invasion — has reached about 90 percent in Tindouf.

In addition to building cognitive abilities and other traditional classroom skills, Sahrawi teachers empower their students with politically critical education at a young age. They also incorporate traditional stories, poems and games to bring the Sahrawi identity to life for children born into exile. Sports are enjoyed collectively by all genders, despite the tendency to separate male and female sports in the Arab world.

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At the same time, however, gender equality is not simply measured by the extent to which girls and boys play together. Men step up and hold one another accountable as well.

“It is shameful for a man to hit a woman,” Abdalahe explained. “He will become a registered mark in our society. All other men will give him the finger [when they see him].”

In a video interview with The Guardian, filmmaker Hayetna Mohamed Deidi said Sahrawi women can be found “in the parliament, the ministries and the embassies. This is what sets Sahrawi women apart, especially in Arab countries.”

Self-determination through media

Despite their somewhat autonomous society as displaced people, the Sahrawis face another challenge: tilting the global media in their favor.

It is no mistake that few outside of Western Sahara have heard of RASD or Tindouf. According to Lakhal, the United States, Morocco, France and Saudi Arabia have invested in maintaining Morocco’s image of purity, perhaps to keep Sahrawi hands off the abundance of phosphates, oil and fish in the occupied territory.

“Western Sahara is not that sexy,” Lakhal said. “The Sahrawis do not use terrorism to impose our rights. The mainstream media only goes after blood.”

Those promoting the RASD struggle for self-determination have tapped into another source of international exposure: the arts.

“In the media and in the camps themselves, we use the arts and film marathons to share our issues with audiences that are typically disinterested in politics,” Lakhal said.

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Representing a people numbering less than a million, Sahrawi musicians like Aziza Brahim have broken into the international scene. Many such artists mix harsh melodies and non-formulaic songwriting, sometimes using both modern and traditional instruments unique to their corner of Africa.

While some Sahrawi artisans simply perform their trades to make a living, others understand their niche in the RASD struggle differently.

“I do believe that expressing oneself through creative ways is a contribution to how we can be powerful but not necessarily violent,” Sahrawi craftsman Mohamed Sulaiman explained in an interview with Danish network Afrika Kontakt. “People tend to forget about what art can do, but it is our role as artists to remind people to bring it to the surface … Art is not just for pleasure … It can solve problems, it can heal, it can connect.”

Sahrawi refugees — women, children, artists, journalists, health professionals — are all contributing what they can for the self-determination of Western Sahara. Often forgotten by the world, and stranded in the desert, they have nevertheless found impressive ways to survive.

“The Sahrawis have built systems they can share with the world,” Lakhal said, “but we cannot do so without national autonomy.”

UK undercover police inquiry names three spies who infiltrated leftwing groups

The Guardian | Protest -

Public inquiry led by Sir John Mitting is examining use of undercover police officers going back as far as 1968

Three undercover police officers who spied on political groups have been identified by a judge-led public inquiry into undercover police operations.

The spies infiltrated leftwing groups as far back as 1968, amid heightened establishment fear that radical groups would challenge the status quo.

Related: Why exactly were the police spying on Jeremy Corbyn?

Related: Police to request secrecy for parts of undercover officers inquiry

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Italy: squats and houses raided and evicted, anarchist comrades arrested…

House Occupation News -

This Thursday 3rd of August, 2017, in the morning, the cops have broken the doors of several rented and squatted houses in Florence, Rome and Lecce, to arrest eight anarchist comrades from Florence.

La Repubblica (Italian mainstream newspaper) says it’s the result of an investigation made by the DIGOS (Division of General Investigations and Special Operations) and the antiterrorist Italian police, regarding two events. First, an explosive device was put in front of a fascist bookshop linked to Casapound during last New Year’s Eve, and the police bomb-disposal expert lost a hand and an eye. Second, a Molotov cocktail was thrown against a Carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano (Florence) on 21st of April, 2017. The cops say they have identified people via bugging telephones, tailings and samplings of biological material (DNA). The charges are: “attempted homicide” for the five comrades of the first case, and “construction, possession and transport in a public place of an explosive or incendiary device” and “aggravated degradation” for all of the comrades, everything seasoned with a “criminal association”… The cops could still be looking for other people. The press, as scavengers, published the full name as well as the age and city of origin and residence of each of the arrested.

In Florence, during the search of La Riottosa squat, the comrades went to the roof to resist for several hours the arrests and the eviction of the house, squatted for ten years, while other people showed their solidarity near the squat besieged by the cops.

Freedom for Giovanni, Marina, Micol, Nicola, Pasca, Robi, Sandro, Vespe !
Freedom for all !

[In French | In Greek.]

Italy: squats and houses raided and evicted, anarchist comrades arrested…

House Occupation News -

This Thursday 3rd of August, 2017, in the morning, the cops have broken the doors of several rented and squatted houses in Florence, Rome and Lecce, to arrest eight anarchist comrades from Florence.

La Repubblica (Italian mainstream newspaper) says it’s the result of an investigation made by the DIGOS (Division of General Investigations and Special Operations) and the antiterrorist Italian police, regarding two events. First, an explosive device was put in front of a fascist bookshop linked to Casapound during last New Year’s Eve, and the police bomb-disposal expert lost a hand and an eye. Second, a Molotov cocktail was thrown against a Carabinieri barracks in Rovezzano (Florence) on 21st of April, 2017. The cops say they have identified people via bugging telephones, tailings and samplings of biological material (DNA). The charges are: “attempted homicide” for the five comrades of the first case, and “construction, possession and transport in a public place of an explosive or incendiary device” and “aggravated degradation” for all of the comrades, everything seasoned with a “criminal association”… The cops could still be looking for other people. The press, as scavengers, published the full name as well as the age and city of origin and residence of each of the arrested.

In Florence, during the search of La Riottosa squat, the comrades went to the roof to resist for several hours the arrests and the eviction of the house, squatted for ten years, while other people showed their solidarity near the squat besieged by the cops.

Freedom for Giovanni, Marina, Micol, Nicola, Pasca, Robi, Sandro, Vespe !
Freedom for all !

[In French.]

Hamburg: Rote Flora prepares for house search

House Occupation News -

The Rote Flora squat in Hamburg published a message on their website that they have information that it looks like police authorities want to search the building in the coming weeks.

In a statement, the Rote Flora writes: “At present there is coming more and more information that the Rote Flora could be searched. We are calling to come to a general assembly in the Flora on day X at 08:00pm (20.00). Keep your eyes and ears open. Solidarity against their repression!”

In the aftermath of the NoG20 protests, politicians of various political parties called to evict the Rote Flora. But the Flora is not easy to evict. Lawyers predict a long legal battle when the owner of the building, the city of Hamburg, definitely decide to evict the squat. In a meeting of about 1000 neighbours, people demanded not to evict the Rote Flora, which was squatted almost 30 years ago. Solidarity is growing and German media is publishing more and more stories about the police violence and the escalating tactics of police authorities during the NoG20 protests. A house search of the Rote Flora could be an attempt to distract the attention from these escalating tactics by police authorities.

Demonstration

On Sunday, August 6, there will be a demonstration in Hamburg to support the NoG20 prisoners and to demand their release. The demo starts at 02:00pm (14:00) at the train station (S-Bahnhof) Billwerder-Moorfleet in Hamburg and will march to the JVA Billwerder prison.

Map: Route of the demonstration:

[Enough is Enough.]

Hamburg: Rote Flora prepares for house search

House Occupation News -

The Rote Flora squat in Hamburg published a message on their website that they have information that it looks like police authorities want to search the building in the coming weeks. Demonstration to demand the release of all NoG20 prisoners on August 6.
Published by Enough is Enough.

You will find all our No G20 stories here.

Note: Enough is Enough is not organizing any of these events, we are publishing this text for people across the US and Europe to be able to see what is going on and for documentation only.

In a statement, the Rote Flora writes: “At present there is coming more and more information that the Rote Flora could be searched. We are calling to come to a general assembly in the Flora on day X at 08:00pm (20.00). Keep your eyes and ears open. Solidarity against their repression!”

In the aftermath of the NoG20 protests, politicians of various political parties called to evict the Rote Flora. But the Flora is not easy to evict. Lawyers predict a long legal battle when the owner of the building, the city of Hamburg, definitely decide to evict the squat. In a meeting of about 1000 neighbours, people demanded not to evict the Rote Flora, which was squatted almost 30 years ago. Solidarity is growing and German media is publishing more and more stories about the police violence and the escalating tactics of police authorities during the NoG20 protests. A house search of the Rote Flora could be an attempt to distract the attention from these escalating tactics by police authorities.

Demonstration

On Sunday, August 6, there will be a demonstration in Hamburg to support the NoG20 prisoners and to demand their release. The demo starts at 02:00pm (14:00) at the train station (S-Bahnhof) Billwerder-Moorfleet in Hamburg and will march to the JVA Billwerder prison.

Map: Route of the demonstration:

https://enoughisenough14.org/2017/08/03/nog20-roteflora-prepares-for-house-search/

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