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Tuesday, 28 February 2012 15:41

Local activist's trial draws public protest

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Local social activism organisations the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) and Students for Social Justice (SSJ) have organised a public protest to be held outside the Grahamstown Magistrates’ Court on 29 February. They are protesting against the assault trial of prominent local activist and UPM chairperson Ayanda Kota.


The protest was initially prohibited by Makana Municipality Director for Corporate Services Thabiso Klaas, on the grounds that the SSJ failed to submit a written application for permission to gather to the municipality. This decision, however, was later overturned by the Magistrates’ Court and the protest has been allowed.

In January, Kota was summoned to the Grahamstown Police Station to answer to an allegation of theft from Rhodes Professor Claudia Martinez-Mullen. He was then allegedly assaulted by a Constable Zulu and fellow officers in front of his 6-year old son and Rhodes University lecturer Richard Pithouse. Kota was charged with resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer. He also laid a counter-charge of assault against the officers.

Kota would not comment on his expectations for the trial but did say that one is innocent until proven guilty, “As such, I maintain I am innocent.”

He also expressed dissatisfaction with The Oppidan Press’s coverage of the incidents, stating that he felt it was slanted against him.

“We are currently in a society where the most basic notions of an open democratic society ruled by law are under great threat,” said protest convener and SSJ member Paul Hjul.

Hjul feels that civil society has an obligation to guard against this threat, which he believes is directed at South African courts and universities as well as the media and Public Protector.

“Non-violent public protests and the adoption of the space outside court buildings where proceedings are taking place are one such means. We need to oppose police brutality if we wish to avoid tyranny. We also need to create a society where people are, and are seen to be, concerned about the fundamental issues of justice,” he said.

Police emphatically denied all allegations of brutality in a press statement released earlier this year.

Kota refused to comment on the alleged police brutality ahead of his trial.

Captain Mali Govender confirmed that permission has been granted for the solidarity protest to take place and said that police would closely monitor the situation.

The SSJ intends to direct all future communication with Makana to Ntombekhaya Baart, the Municipal Manager, and will confer directly with the SAPS with regards to traffic arrangements on the date of the protest.

Hjul said that the SSJ now refuses to communicate with Klaas. “Despite knowing of the problems with Klaas and the handling of gatherings, the Makana municipality persists in giving him power,” he added.

Hjul also said that whilst SSJ is involved in organising the gathering, it is not an SSJ event and all persons and organisations are invited to participate.

The protest will take place at 08:30 on 29 February directly outside the Magistrates’ Court in High Street.

(Published in The Oppidan Press, February 28 2012)

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