ZIMBABWEANS PROTEST POLICE BRUTALITY AND XENOPHOBIA

SW Radio Africa, 11 February 2008

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A group of about 200 immigrants, the majority of them Zimbabweans, descended on the Central Police Station in Cape Town last Thursday to protest against police brutality and xenophobia. The demonstration was organized by People Against Suffering, Suppression, Oppression and Poverty (PASSOP), a rights group in South Africa that assists immigrants and refugees. The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), a lobby group for people who are HIV-positive, also assisted with organising the demonstration. Braam Hanekom from PASSOP, said the police raid on the Methodist church in Johannesburg at the end of January prompted the protest; "Frequently immigrants are beaten and even killed by local South Africans and for police to have engaged in such a manner was absolutely unacceptable." He was referring to the behavior of police during the church raid, where they assaulted Bishop Verryn and his staff and destroyed property belonging to the church and the refugees who shelter there. 1,500 people were arrested. Last week Regis Matutu, projects officer for TAC, said it was important to protest this behaviour because so many of the people arrested had been denied access to medication while in police custody. The police had denied permission for the demonstration last week, claiming there was not enough manpower to provide adequate security. The police suggested that the event be delayed by at least a week. Hanekom said this did not stop them, saying; "We had no choice but to do it and we weren't going to let the police disallow our protest against their brutality." He explained that there were 15 people still in jail after the Johannesburg church raid and the message against police brutality and xenophobia could not wait. The police have now retaliated against the organisers of the protest. Hanekom said they informed him that they had opened a docket for the gathering and he says they might be issuing a warrant of arrest for him. On the positive side Hanekom said that it was encouraging to see Congolese, Burundis, South Africans and even American students join the protest in solidarity. The protestors marched to the Cape Town Central Police Station where they picketed and presented a memorandum against police hostilities towards foreign immigrants.