South Africa: Social Movement Indaba condemns arrests of Anti-Privatisation Forum activists

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FRFI 178 April / May 2004

Press Statement 21/3/04: The Social Movement Indaba (SMI) condemns the arrests of Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF) activists that took place today in Johannesburg.
As the SMI was engaged in crafting a programme of action for social movements in the country, as part of a three-day SMI conference in Johannesburg, we received the reprehensible news about the arrests of 52 activists of the APF, including six children and innocent bystanders. The arrests happened around 11.15am in Pretoria Street, Hilbrow. Subsequent to that, 100 APF activists were attacked by the police outside Hilbrow Hospital. Once again, the brutal police force used violence and shot metal ball bearings, stun grenades and teargas injuring APF activists. Two injured comrades were taken to Johannesburg General Hospital.

Earlier in the day, police had unlawfully stopped APF activists from boarding buses from Soweto and Thembelihle. These buses were going to join the action that was to take place at the opening of Constitutional Hill. Other activists who had gathered at the Workers Library in Newtown were forced, under the threat of arrest, to submit to completely illegal finger-printing procedures by the police. We object strongly to such repressive tactics which were commonly used during the days of apartheid!

The APF and other movements associated with the Coalition against Water Privatisation, had earlier applied for permission to march to Constitutional Hill, to coincide with the opening of the Constitutional Court and the commemoration of Human Rights Day (Sharpeville Day). The march was to raise the collective voices of poor communities in protest at the huge gap between the stated protection and realisation of basic and constitutional human rights and the reality of those rights being denied to poor people.

In a direct manipulation of the relevant law (the apartheid-era ‘Gatherings Act’), the police denied permission for the march – a clear indication that the state and its institutional agents are committed to repressing social movements which disagree with state policies. The APF rightfully decided to go ahead with the protest. And yet, our rights to assemble, picket, dissent and freedom of expression, as enshrined in the constitution, were once again brutally ignored and attacked by the police force. Most hypocritically and ironically, the violence took place on Human Rights’ Day, also the day on which South Africa’s new constitutional court was opened! This is happening when the poor and oppressed are being asked to celebrate ten years of democracy...

The Social Movement Indaba
• Condemns in the strongest terms the arrests of the APF activists.
• Demands the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all charges.
• Demands from the state an end to all forms of repression of basic human and constitutional rights.

For further information, contact African Liberation Support Campaign Network at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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