By Student Activists from Wits University
Activists and members of an organization known as the Black First Land First (BLF) movement have been detained for more than a week at the Pretoria Central prison (also known as Kgosi Mampuru Correctional Services). They were detained after staging a demonstration at the office of the public protector demanding that the public protector, Thuli Madonsela, investigate white corruption with the same vigour she does when investigating and persecuting black people.
The activists were arrested immediately after demanding to speak to the public protector. Their charges include trespassing, public violence and kidnapping. The arrested activists were unarmed and no property or persons were injured during the demonstration. This makes the charges and their continuing detention questionable. We are left with no other option but to believe that their arrest is another signifier of the tendency of using the law to silence those who challenge white power and its institutions. It is also not a shock that a black person like the public protector will be used as a puppet to ensure to the protection of white interests.
The detained activists were demanding that the public protector investigate the matter of an alleged R26 billion that disappeared during the transition from apartheid to the so called ‘post’- apartheid. The matter implicates a number of white owned companies and certain banks. The investigation of this matter was set to begin in 2011 but it has not. It is this suspicious and selective amnesia by the public protector that inspired the activists to demonstrate. Twenty-six people have been detained and there seems to be little prospects of an immediate release.
We believe that the media has deliberately failed to follow this matter because it threatens the powers that be and the media in a society like South Africa represents the fantasies and the ideas of the (white) ruling class. Under these conditions it becomes necessary for all those who are against injustice to shout and scream until passer-by’s heed the call and join in. It is only the rippling of this effect that can spark a national dialogue around white corruption which has been normalized as business at the expense of the poor. If we don’t organize, the efforts and the actions of those who are arrested will be in vain. Their action will be reduced to an isolated incident of a schizophrenic episode. The action of these comrades was not a moment of madness but was inspired by a desire to fight an unjust system. Their action was an act of bravery and our silence gives the media and the department of (in)justice the power to define the narrative of their action.
We therefore make a clarion call to all progressives in Gauteng and across the country to rise up and take action. We call for those who believe in the fight to show solidarity regardless of their political affiliations.
The colour of our skin, our class position and our gender are the basis of our oppression and continued exploitation. We must therefore use the basis of our oppression to stick together with a tenacity that will make our oppressors tremble!
We ask that we make use of social media to raise awareness and to mobilize. The matter is beyond the investigation of the R26 billion but is rather about exposing the hypocrisy of institutions that claim to defend the public when in actual fact they protect a small (read white) portion of the public. We call for all progressives to find creative ways to demonstrate solidarity, materially and symbolically.
The arrested are expected to appear in court on the 26 July 2016 (Tuesday) and as a sign of solidarity we are going to the office of the public protector to demonstrate peacefully. The march to the office of the public protector is scheduled as follows:
Date: 26 July 2016 (Tuesday)
Time: 09h00 am
Assembly Point: Braamfontein (Pick n Pay Bus Stop)
Transport and refreshments will be provided. Comrades who are close to the office of the public protector can meet us there.