Ayanda Kota, Chairperson of the Unemployed People's Movement and Counterfire contributor has been seriously assaulted by a group of police officers in the Grahamstown police station. He was dragged, bleeding from at least two wounds, and with his clothes torn from his body, to the holding cells.
For some months he has been under open police surveillance and at times has been threatened and insulted by the police. The police have been watching his mother's house and have searched it looking for him. Their behaviour has been very rude, threatening and aggressive.
Today Ayanda was summoned to the police station. He popped out of a meeting organised by Masifunde and the Rural People's Movement with his six month old son and a comrade. He was called to the police station because a lecturer at Rhodes, who has publicly engaged in strange and aggressive behaviour on a number of occasions, laid a charge of theft against Ayanda after he misplaced a book that she had leant him. Ayanda did not steal the book - he mislaid it. This is something that happens all the time to people that share books. Perhaps another comrade picked it up and forget to return it. Perhaps it was left in a taxi. These things happen. Ayanda has made it quite clear that he is willing to replace the book.
As soon as Ayanda met Constable Zulu, the officer that had summoned him to the station, Constable Zulu said that he was taking him straight to the cells. Ayanda said that he wanted to show the officer text messages on his cellphone to the lecturer at Rhodes offering to replace the book but the officer insisted that Ayanda was going straight to the cells. Ayanda then asked to be able to take his son home first. At that point Constable Zulu lunged at Ayanda very aggressively. Ayanda raised his arm in an instinctive gesture of defence following which Zulu began to assault him with blows to the head. Three or four other police offices then joined the assault. Ayanda was on the floor for most of the duration of the assault which went on for some minutes. This happened in the presence of his six year old son who of course was traumatised.
The assault was brutal, entirely unecessary and accompanied by, in Constable Zulu's case, an obvious sadistic delight. A police secretary who witnessed it all burst into tears.One of the police officers made a sarcastic remark about Ayanda being the newsmaker of the year in the local paper. This was plainly no ordinary arrest.
This is a bogus charge that most certainly does not justify arrest. There was nothing to justify the assault. This is a simple attempt on the part of the police to misuse a ridiculous charge laid by someone well known for strange and erratic behaviour in order to intimidate an activist and the movement that he represents.
The police are not here to protect society. They are here to protect the ruling party from popular dissent. This is not an isolated incident. Poor people's movements have been constantly subject to this sort of behaviour at the hands of the police for many years now.
UPM will try to visit Ayanda in the holding cells and will mobilise to get him medical attention tonight and to support him in court tomorrow. The movement is currently looking for a lawyer. Of course civil and criminal charges will be laid against Constable Zulu and all the other police officers who joined this assault.
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