Black Mon­day: Free­dom Front cries ‘apartheid’

CityPress - - News - JACO NEL and JOHAN EYBERS news@city­press.co.za

Five peo­ple who took part in the #Black­Mon­day protests against farm mur­ders this week have ap­peared in courts around the coun­try, or have re­ceived sum­mons to ap­pear, on charges that they con­tra­vened the Reg­u­la­tion of Gath­er­ings Act and the Na­tional Road Traf­fic Act.

Some protesters who took part in the ac­tion around the coun­try – caus­ing traf­fic chaos in many ar­eas – raised the ire of their fel­low cit­i­zens by wav­ing the old South African flag and singing the apartheid-era na­tional an­them.

Now po­lice are pur­su­ing them in terms of the acts. The gath­er­ing act states that peo­ple need to ob­tain per­mis­sion from au­thor­i­ties to gather, and pro­vides for prison sen­tences of up to a year for con­tra­ven­tions.

Those in­volved are be­ing pros­e­cuted af­ter po­lice al­legedly re­ceived in­struc­tions from their bosses at na­tional level to ar­rest those who par­tic­i­pated in the protests.

Pi­eter Wag­ner, an es­tate agent and a mem­ber of the Bela-Bela and Modi­molle polic­ing fo­rum, was called in on Wed­nes­day be­cause of his al­leged par­tic­i­pa­tion in an un­law­ful gath­er­ing and for al­legedly ob­struct­ing traf­fic.

Wag­ner told City Press’ sis­ter pub­li­ca­tion Rap­port that, on Mon­day at about 7am, he joined a large group of peo­ple, to­gether with his wife and daugh­ter, near the Set­tlers of­framp be­tween Bela-Bela and Pre­to­ria for a prayer meet­ing.

At about 12pm, there was a sim­i­lar prayer meet­ing at the Spar store across from his of­fice, which he also at­tended.

That’s why Wag­ner was shocked when a con­sta­ble walked into his of­fice late the next day, to come and “fetch him”.

Wag­ner said the con­sta­ble did not ar­rest him, but wanted him to go and see a se­nior de­tec­tive be­cause he had al­legedly ob­structed traf­fic.

“I didn’t even drive in the con­voy with the other peo­ple,” said Wag­ner.

He went to the po­lice sta­tion with AfriFo­rum lawyer Louis Taljaard the next day and was to ap­pear in court on Thurs­day.

Wag­ner said he was told in court that he was “ex­cused”, and would only need to re­turn if nec­es­sary. The case against Wag­ner was post­poned in­def­i­nitely.

James van den Bergh from Polok­wane in Lim­popo was part of a con­voy in which he said all driv­ers trav­elled on the left of the yel­low line on the N1 high­way and stopped to pray on the side of the road with­out block­ing traf­fic.

“I was called on Tues­day to go to the po­lice sta­tion for my involvement in an il­le­gal gath­er­ing,” he said.

“I also went to court, but even the state pros­e­cu­tor ad­mit­ted they could not pros­e­cute me. The case was with­drawn un­con­di­tion­ally.”

Mar­celle Maritz, leader of the Free­dom Front Plus in Lim­popo, said she joined a large group of peo­ple who spon­ta­neously gath­ered in a park­ing lot in Mokopane on Mon­day to pray.

Af­ter that, she and group of peo­ple gath­ered out­side the town next to the main road to pray and sing gospel songs.

“The po­lice phoned me the next day to make a state­ment about my involvement with the ob­struc­tion of traf­fic and il­le­gal gath­er­ings,” Maritz said.

She is wait­ing to hear when she must ap­pear in court.

Free­dom Front Plus leader Pi­eter Groe­newald crit­i­cised the po­lice’s con­duct and ac­cused them of dou­ble stan­dards.

“We used our right to free­dom of ex­pres­sion to protest against the mur­der of our kin, fam­ily and work­ers, but now the state is even us­ing old apartheid leg­is­la­tion to in­tim­i­date peo­ple,” he said.

“On a weekly ba­sis, roads are be­ing blocked dur­ing dis­or­derly ser­vice de­liv­ery protests and by other groups such as taxi unions, mu­nic­i­pal work­ers and stu­dents ... But when white peo­ple peace­fully protest for le­git­i­mate rea­sons, they get ar­rested,” Groe­newald said.

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