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Durban: All Charges Dropped Against the Pemary Ridge Thirteen

All Charges Dropped Against the Pemary 13, But Someone Needs to Answer for Police Attacks Abahlali basePemary Ridge Press Statement

16 November, 20:42

Abahlali basePemary Ridge is happy that all charges were dropped against 13 of our members, who were arrested in a brutal attack last Friday by the Sydenham police.

Abahlali has said, since 2005, “My lawyer is my neighbour.” In court today, the Pemary 13 were not represented by a lawyer, but by the Chairperson of Abahlali baseMotala Heights , Shamita Naidoo, who learned about justice through years of experience working in her community, and about the law seeing case after political case brought by police against shack-dwellers. Shamita spoke powerfully and with a lot of anger against the police violence so common in Abahlali communities, and in all shack settlements.

All the charges were dropped. But someone needs to answer for what happened last Friday night. If there was no case against us, why were we shot at, beaten, tortured, abused and detained over the whole weekend?

Why is it us, and not the ratepayers who live across the street, that almost every week are attacked by police? Is it because we are poor? Is it because we are black? Is it because we are not welcome in Reservoir Hills? Not welcome in our own city? Not welcome in our own country? Is it because our settlement has been strongly Abahlali baseMjondolo since 2005 and that, therefore, we refuse to accept that we do not count in this society?

Why were we arrested, when it was the police who were committing crimes in Pemary on Friday night? Why does no one take seriously the fact that if you are a poor person the police are some of the dangerous criminals that you will ever have to confront?

The police are abusing us, and they are abusing government resources. Budgets for bullets, for cars, for lawyers, all were spent just to beat, shoot at and arrest shack-dwellers that committed no crime. The resources used to shoot at, beat and arrest innocent people could have been used to protect us. We as the poor are also getting robbed, stabbed and shot dead by criminals. We cannot afford private security. We need to be safe and yet all the police do in our communities is to torture and arrest us. Being poor has been turned into a crime. Being a poor person who doesn't know your place - who insists on your right to be political, to think and to speak for yourself - has been turned into an even bigger crime.

These cases take our communities’ resources too. These cases take energy, and poor people’s finances. The people, who were arrested, missed school and work. One of the arrested was supposed to write his Matric exam today. People who were injured have to pay for a doctor. Some of them could not go to work or school today. Those who come to court in solidarity must take off work and school, and pay for taxi fares. If you are beaten with your guitar and you are a person that loves to make music you will have to buy a new guitar. If your door is kicked in you will have to fix that door. All these resources are wasted just because of the police attacking us. A person can lose their job for missing even one day of work.

We all need to be safe and happy in this country, not just some of us, not just a part of us - all of us. This is our position and we will stick to it through all kinds of attacks. A person is a person whether they find themselves in a shack or in a big house with a fence and a burglar alarm and private security.

For more information and comment please contact

Shamita Naidoo 074 315 7962 Philani Zungu 072 96 29312