8 August 2012

South Africa: Activist Turns Down Zille's Invitation to Discuss Necklacing

Photo: Sandiso Phaliso/WCN
Protesting social injustice: Necklacing first came about in townships under apartheid as a way of torturously killing people suspected of colluding with the state security forces.

A social justice activist has snubbed Premier Helen Zille's invitation to a meeting to discuss vigilante necklacings in Khayelitsha, saying such meetings should be held in the township where the problems occurred rather than in the Premier's office.

In a series of demonstrations against the spate of brutal vigilante murders - including necklacings - in Khayelitsha this year, activist Nkwame Cedile from Harare in Khayelitsha went on a nine-day hunger strike in June and, he and fellow activists, marked Mandela Day by putting tyres around their necks and standing outside Parliament in protest.

On Monday Cedile, along with the Women's Legal Center, were invited by Zille to discuss a way forward following the expiration of the deadline for the office of the National Police Commissioner, General Phiyega, to begin an investigation into the alleged breakdown of relationships between Khayelitsha police and the community.

Cedile snubbed the invite saying he would have attended if the meeting had taken place in Khayelitsha where the problem was being experienced.

In an open letter to Zille he said: "We would have preferred a meeting of this nature to be held in Khayelitsha, where necklacing is taking place.

"We feel that your presence in the community would reflect your seriousness in addressing the matter at hand.

"Walking the streets of Khayelitsha and interacting with the reality of the community would mean you are entering as an equal and someone who has a real interest in addressing their conditions.

"Lack of safety and murder seem to have been normalised in Khayelitsha and this is why any attempt to resolving this crisis should be informed by a people-led intervention.

"Even if a commission of enquiry is instituted successfully and still long after that commission has done its work and all so-called criminals are jailed, for as long as the conditions that make it possible for young people to be involved in criminal activities still exist in Khayelitsha, we will still be confronted with criminality," he said.

He added: "We must come up with strategies that makes it impossible for young township kids to languish in Polsmoor prison, while UCT is full of white children; fulfilling their dreams and ambitions through education that is invariably denied to poor and working class children."

Zille's spokesman Zak Mbhele said while they appreciated Cedile's shared concerned, it was unfortunate that he had turned down their invite.

Asked if there is anything else that Zille could do apart from calling for a commission of enquiry, he said the Premier and her government had "no operational control when it came to matters of policing or law enforcement.

"A commission of inquiry is one of the few constitutionally-defined powers that reside in the provincial sphere of government relating to the police services, along with oversight."

He said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the way forward following Zille's proposed commission of enquiry into the alleged breakdown in the relationship between the police and the community being put on hold to give the National Police Commissioner time to hold their own investigation.

The National Police Commissioner had requested until July 31 to conduct their investigation, which has not taken place.

Following the discussions in the closed meeting between Zille and the Women's Legal Centre that took place on Monday evening, the Commissioner said Zille was set to make known the way forward.

Though police have been tight lipped about the official number of people who have been necklaced during the course of this year, at least nine people have been reported necklaced or otherwise burnt to death in the township as reported by West Cape News this year.

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