We, the Students for Social Justice condemn in the strongest possible terms the vicious police attack on our friend and comrade Ayanda Kota of the Unemployed People's Movement, which occurred on Thursday the 12th of January 2012. Ayanda Kota was assaulted in barbaric and cowardly fashion in front of his 6 year old son at the Grahamstown police station by Constable Zulu and several other officers. Ayanda had voluntarily gone to the station after having been accused of the theft of a book lent to him by a Rhodes University academic. The charge of theft is unfounded and part of a private vendetta against comrade Ayanda Kota. Having been informed of the charges, Ayanda acted in good faith by offering to replace the book in question, which he had misplaced.
Sadly it has become all too predictable for police, often on the behest of the ruling party, to violently attack activists perceived to be a threat. We have seen this behavior when the police murdered Andries Tatane before the eyes of the nation. We have seen this behavior in Durban, when the ANC led an attack against Abahlali basemjondolo members in the Kennedy Road Settlement. We have seen this behavior when ANCYL members attacked Democratic Left Front and UPM activists (including Ayanda) at the international day of climate action during COP 17. We have seen this behavior when Rehad Desai was assaulted in front of Zuma. We have seen this behavior when the police arrested Ayanda Kota and three other UPM members on spurious charges last year. The police continue to disrespect the laws surrounding political protest, laws they are constitutionally bound to protect. They act as little more than the municipalities’ private enforcers and the agents of Capital.
We remember General Cele's call of “shoot to kill”. SSJ has also observed the manner in which the police have been re-militarized under the pretext of the World Cup and have noted that it was only a matter of time until this violence was directed against dissenters in this country. The vast sums of money spent on turning a civilian police force into a highly aggressive military cadre could have gone towards a public works program, creating thousands of jobs for the unemployed of South Africa. Instead, the ANC seems more concerned with destroying dissent than dealing with the root problems of crime: poverty, chronic unemployment, disempowerment and dehumanization. After the centenary celebrations of the ANC, it is shocking to us how the ruling party has forgotten so quickly what it was like to be persecuted by the state. In a sad twist, the ruling party has taken up the monstrous legacy which the likes of DF Malan left in terms of dealing with dissidents in this country.
Clearly there is a ongoing pattern in which dissent is either criminalized or met with illegal extrajudicial violence in South Africa, both the ANC and the official opposition, the DA, act in uncharacteristic concert towards grassroots dissent, as comrades from Blikkiesdorp and Hangberg can testify. Members of SSJ have personally witnessed threats of violence directed towards Ayanda Kota on more than one occasion. It has become common practice for the Makana municipality to accuse Ayanda of being an agent of an unnamed reactionary third force, the bogeyman with which all organic dissent is linked to. This is part of a long running attempt to silence the UPM, a leaked document obtained by SSJ last year showed that the local ANC branch had drawn up detailed plans to undermine the UPM and Ayanda's credibility and reputation. Ayanda has been under police surveillance and subject to regular harassment.
If only the same amount of energy was directed towards the huge problems facing working class residents of Grahamstown. With over 70% unemployment, little or no infrastructure in the townships, 10s of millions of rands unaccounted for and the inhuman use of the ‘bucket system”, it seems that the ruling party would rather focus its energy on harassing, maligning, and assaulting those who bring these problems to light, rather than solve them.
We call on the police to investigate this assault and punish those responsible. We call on the municipality and the ANC to condemn this violence in the strongest possible terms. We call on all those who believe in democracy to denounce this criminal action. We call upon the Rhodes academic to drop her personal crusade against Ayanda. Most importantly, we call on the SAPS and the ANC to turn back from this brutal policy of intimidation, coercion, and outright violence and respect our constitutional right to protest the inequalities of our current society. Sadly we suspect that the ruling party and the Grahamstown municipality will attempt to hide this incident and prosecute Ayanda for threatening their comfortable position of power. Until that position of power is toppled, our calls will continue to echo through the streets, despite them being met with the truncheon.
Students for Social Justice