Dannhauser Ikwezi Mine Protest: Nine Activists Arrested
12 March 2021 - Just two days after bystander Mthokozisi Ntumba was killed when police opened fire on student protesters in Braamfontein, activists in KZN protesting peacefully against the Ikwezi mine were confronted by excessive force from SAPS members.
Nine environmental activists have been taken into police custody in Dannhauser, KwaZulu Natal. They were charged with 1) contravening a court order; 2) public violence; and 3) assault of a police officer. The nine were part of a group peacefully protesting against the Ikwezi coal mine. Eight were finally charged and held in custody until a court appearance on Monday, 15th March 2021.
The planned two-day protest started on Thursday morning and the group continued their peaceful protest into Friday when they were confronted by police. While community representatives were busy negotiating with the mine personnel, police fired rubber bullets at the group who were peacefully demonstrating. The police also used force to pin down and arrest the activists, among them four women, who were part of the protest.
Sindi Kubheka, Robby Mokgalaka, Themba Khumalo, Isaac Shabalala, Zakhele Mthanti, Zanele Kubheka, Buhle Kunene and Sipho Shabalala are all behind bars at the Dannhauser police station. The protesters, including the nine arrested, did not damage any property, were not trespassing, nor were they in any way violent during the protest.
It is clear that the South African Police Services do not understand how to undertake public safety policing and violence is their only response. At the protest the police made use of excessive force when it was not necessary. They abused their powers and denied affected community activists their right to protest and their voices to be heard. The unnecessary use of force and arrest on black protesters in this country is a continuing trend.
This abuse by police and the failure of government to act to protect people has been documented in a 2019 report by Human Rights Watch, which focused on the impact of mining on people in South Africa. This report called on the Department of Police, including the National and Provincial Commissioners, to:
- Ensure that law enforcement authorities respect and protect the right to protest, including by not using unlawful measures of crowd control beyond what is strictly necessary to prevent harm to people or excessive harm to property; and
- Ensure that community rights defenders and others opposing mines are not arbitrarily arrested or detained, including by complying with of the Constitutional Court’s decision prohibiting the arrest and criminal prosecution of conveners for failing to give notice of a protest to municipalities.
This report also warned of the violence in Somkhele which sadly led to the murder of MamFikile Nshangase.
Today it was clear that the police were pre-empting the situation and came to the second day of the protest in armored vehicles. The community fearing violence decided to sit down, but still the police used violence against them after a rock was allegedly thrown at the police.
At the Dannhauser police station and Magistrate’s Court, the police delayed in processing the charges and as a result bail could not be granted, which means the activists will spend the entire weekend in jail.
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