Justice, not division, for Masi

2015-10-27 06:00

Only a week ago, on Sunday 18 October, hundreds of residents marched for peace in Masiphumelele. Many not only recognised this positive message, but also showed understanding for the main reason for protests before (while condemning the violence going along with it): A too long period of ignorance towards abuse of women and children by the local police service while drug dealers could run their businesses undisturbed by authorities.

Now there are promises by provincial minister Dan Plato that Masi will finally get its own police station and by the new Ocean View police station commander that he will work together with the people to instil new trust. But a time plan for the new police station has not been made public so far nor has any arrest of the remaining drug dealers happened.

Instead, only four days later, on Thursday 22 October, one of the recognised protest leaders, Lubabalo Vellem, was arrested.

The next day, thousands of residents went on the rampage again and demanded the release of their leader. Whatever Vellem is accused of, it is a wrong decision to start arresting those who fought escalating crime in Masi (no doubt, partly with absolute wrong means when some took the law in their own hands).

To negotiate a sustainable and peaceful way forward, more than ever a strong and united leadership in Masi is needed.

By arresting more protesters and supporting divisions in Masi, nothing but more unrest and violence will be achieved.

On Friday, when Kommetjie Road was blocked for hours and the riot was at its worst, it was a group of elderly ladies from the Masi Women’s Forum (led by Nontembiso Madikane) who escorted me in and later a bus safely out with all our children at the HOKISA Home who were in urgent need of medication and food.

While one police officer at the entrance of Pokela Road advised us that it was impossible to go in and out, all protesters we met showed respect towards our work once the women explained what we do and who we are.

A word of gratitude also to our local disaster management expert Marti Weddepohl who had assisted in the communication with the police before. Just a small example of how leadership and courage can help in even the most tense situations.

Where anger and desperation have grown too long, no more promises are needed, but only a new reality of justice for all can help to create peace

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