Sit-in protesters arrested

2011-07-05 00:00

DRAMATIC scenes unfolded last night as a large contingent of police officers swooped on the ANC’s Moses Mabhida regional offices to arrest the activists who have staged a sit-in in the offices since May 30.

The group was escorted to the Jabu Ndlovu Street police station, where they spent the night.

About 20 police in 12 vehicles, including dog unit vans, arrived at about 7.30 pm to remove the 25 activists from the offices and arrest them. The protesters argued with police, asking why they were being arrested. Police officers told The Witness that they did not know why they had been sent to carry out the arrests.

The police tried for about 45 minutes to get the activists to board police vehicles to be driven to the police station, but failed.

Without resisting arrest, the 25 protesters chose to walk to the police station. Wrapped in blankets, they slowly made their way down Jabu Ndlovu Street singing revolutionary songs as the police formed a half circle around them.

At the police station they started yelling profanities directed at Premier Dr Zweli Mkhize and the regional executive committee (REC) leadership.

Amid all the drama at the police station two Witness reporters were mistaken for activists and were almost tossed into the holding cells.

When the reporters identified themselves the police said they would confirm their status once everyone was behind bars. Police only let the reporters go after one of them produced a press card.

When a lawyer representing the activists, Sbani Nzimande of Nzimande SG Attorneys, asked police why his clients had been arrested and what they were charged with, they were sent from pillar to post. After more than an hour the police still could not give him an answer.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Phindile Radebe said about 25 protesters were arrested for contempt of court after they had failed to comply with a court order on Friday that they should vacate the offices.

But when The Witness spoke to the attorney representing the REC and the provincial executive committee (PEC), Sibusisiwe Ngubane, of Ngubane Wills Inc. yesterday afternoon, she said the protesters had been given the opportunity to file papers today stating why they should be allowed to occupy the building.

Ngubane said she is waiting on instructions from her clients as to what steps to take. “We will be heading back to court on Thursday to finalise the case.”

At about 10.15 last night Nzimande told The Witness that he was still waiting for answers when the police were locked in a meeting.

At the time of going to press The Witness had not yet established from Nzimande what the protesters had been charged with.

Nzimande said police told him they were acting on KZN police commissioner Mamunye Ngobeni’s instructions.

ANC regional secretary Supa Zuma said: “I suspect that there were arrested for contempt of court. However police can elaborate on that because it is not an ANC matter.”

He denied knowing that the police were going to arrest the activists, although but he knew yesterday that they would be evacuated. He confirmed he had sent for a locksmith to change the locks at the offices.

A spokesperson for the activists, Sibongile Mkhize, said that they will go back to the offices once the arrested members are released from the holding cells. “We still stand by our demands that the REC should be disbanded,” she said.

A high court interdict, dated 30 June, from Ngubane Wills inc. acting on behalf of the ANC Provincial and Regional Executive Committees stated the following relating to the “activists”:

•You are unlawfully occupying the ANC Regional Offices on 163 Jabu Ndlovu Street Pietermaritzburg

•You have never been authorized by both the Provincial and Regional leadership to occupy these offices

•Several attempts have been made by both the Provincial and Regional leadership through meetings, requesting yourselves to vacate

•Your non-compliance has destabilized and or interfered with the normal day to day operations of the ANC in the region and has almost rendered the organization administration dysfunctional.

The protestors were therefore given 12 hours after receipt of the notice to vacate the premises failing which an urgent application would be brought against them

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