News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Tuesday March 26th 2019

Charges against Rondebosch occupiers withdrawn – except for Wanza

The charges against 40 people arrested on Friday following the attempted occupation of Rondebosch Common were withdrawn with strict conditions at the Wynberg magistrates’ court because of lack of evidence yesterday.

However the case against Mario Wanza who attempted to organise a three-day civil society summit on jobs, land and housing on the common was postponed until March for further investigation. He was meanwhile released on R500 bail.

Wanza was arrested in Manenberg on Friday before leaving with demonstrators for Rondebosch by bus, and charged with illegal gathering.

The normally serene and empty common was the scene of a heavy police presence on Friday when scores of protestors were confronted by officers in riot gear and sprayed with blue dye by a police water cannon – reminiscent of the famous ‘purple shall govern’ in 1989 when anti-apartheid demonstrators were sprayed with purple dye in order easily identify them and make arrests.

Disorder followed as police arrested the group, throwing people into the back of police vans, taking them to Mowbray, Claremont and Rondebosch police stations.

There was chaos in the Wynberg court corridors yesterday as friends and family of those arrested struggle to gain access to the courtroom, which was packed to capacity.

Outside, about 50 people protested, demanding the release of their compatriots. Holding banners reading ‘release our leaders’ and ‘we will continue occupying Rondebosch’, the group toyi-toyied and chanted ‘release Mario now’.

The conditions against the group of 40 included that they were not to go to or be near Rondebosch, or be part of any illegal gathering.

Despite the conditions imposed by the court, members of the group said they would gather at the common again if their leaders asked them to.

Wanza said there was “no fairness” in the justice system.

“Why have charges against me not been withdrawn?”

He said although he was warned not to participate in any illegal gathering he would “continue fighting for the right to have decent lives”.

Outside court Yushra Adams of the Democratic Left Front said he found it “difficult to swallow” the fact that charges against the 40 people were withdrawn but the case against Wanza was still pending.

Adams said the arrests were “a waste of time and government resources… they have done nothing wrong and broke no law”.

She said charges of wrongful arrest would be laid with the Independent Complains Directorate (ICD) before the end of the week.

“They (police) have disrespected the people and acted unlawfully,” said Adams.

Clive Snell, who represents Proudly Stellenbosch, said the different organisations that participated in the occupation of Rondebosch Common would meet later this week and discuss the way forward.

He said he expected the next move would be to occupy Rondebosch Golf Course in February. – Sandiso Phaliso

Tags: Clive Snell, Democratic Left Front, Independent Complains Directorate, Mario Wanza, Proudly Stellenbosch, Rondebosch Common, Rondebosch Golf Course, Yushra Adams

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