Hundreds of residents have gathered outside Flagstaff magistrate court in protest as twenty of their comrades appear in court today. A protest for basic services organised by the Siphaqheni Residents Association and the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI) in Flagstaff came under attack by the police in the early hours of 21 January. Twenty were arrested, among them a street trader bystander and are to appear in the Flagstaff magistrate’s court today on charges of public violence.
“The police stood for the violence”, says Vuyisani S’khulume, a DSM member in the area. The protest had only been going on for ten to twenty minutes before the police arrived and immediately began chasing people around and arresting them indiscriminately.
Residents of several localities around the small and impoverished Eastern Cape town of Flagstaff have long fought for much-needed improvements in services in the area. Memorandums and several marches have been ignored by the local authorities. Residents therefore decided to block the road leading into Flagstaff hoping that this desperate act would warrant government attention.
“Indeed, the government responded very swiftly this time, by sending in its police to silence the protesters”, said Thamsanqa Dumezweni, of the DSM. We call on residents in all the localities in Flagstaff to continue the struggle by reaching out for support to all residents and workers in the area – we need a service delivery general strike, not just in the Eastern Cape but in the whole country.