Fucker stole my camera and shot my mates

It was an ordinary mugging. The bastard had a gun, a swagger, a gang and didn’t seem to want to me to take his photo when he was roughing someone up. So he came up to me and told me to hand over the camera. Timid as I am, and not wanting much further trouble, I handed it over. There were witnesses.

“What’s your name?”

“Nayager”, he said, pointing to his badge.

Superintendent Glen Nayager, it turns out. This is he.

This is mugshot from the Sydenham Community Police Forum. Not without irony, he’s the one in charge of Crime Prevention. Turns out, talking to those more familiar with the Durban scene, that he’s a man with a history. He faces several pending charges, but has enough protection from his patrons to carry on with that particular blend of thuggery, racism, and vendetta, known in Durban as ‘community policing’.

It’s a shame he stole my camera. I had plenty of shots on it of today’s protest in Foreman Road. Pictures, for example, of the police charging on unarmed protesters. Pictures like this one:

Todd McPherson, one of our fellow travelling photographers, managed to shoot this feller.

Yes, that’s a pistol. Witnesses say he shot off a few rounds into the backs of retreating protesters. Luckily, he managed not to hit anyone. His brethren were armed with rubber bullets, and they also sprayed the crowd, though with more enthusiasm than competence, it would seem. Finally, they managed to rugby tackle someone in the bushes, and shot him point blank. There’s a fairly grim picture, not yet on Indymedia (though watch this space), of a man shot in the head with a rubber bullet. To ensure optimum fish-in-barrel shooting conditions, the police sealed off the Foreman Road informal settlement, preventing anyone from entering, and firing at anyone trying to leave.

Richard Pithouse caught a rubber bullet in the foot. This was before he’d had a chat with a white policeman, name Swart (trans. Black), who said, pointing around at the informal settlement “There’s no democracy here.” The implication was clear. Just as Foreman was shielded from the main road – it’s in a ravine, far from sight – so the actions of the police were invisible. Then the police came after Cde Pithouse. “I want to arrest the white guy,” said Mr. Swart. Richard managed to dodge them, and get out.

But I digress. I was saying that I managed to take a good few photos. One was of the toilet bloc in Foreman Road. If memory serves there were four toilets there. Foreman Road is bigger than Kennedy Road and, as one newspaper reported, Kennedy Road has six toilets for six thousand people. The ratio is surely worse in Foreman. But Foreman doesn’t have the good fortune to be visible to passing traffic.

Which reminds me. A little while ago, Cde Pithouse sent news about the e.coli count in water around informal settlements. Just so you know, any e.coli is a bad thing. Anything above zero is considered hazardous, and the relaxed South African guidelines suggest that “even the recreation potential is negatively affected by the presence of E.coli as counts in excess of 400 counts per 100 ml”. The figure was 1 080 000 around the Palmeit river, which the Kennedy Road settlement borders. In the uMlazi river, the count is 10 000 000 and exceeding 100 000, 60% of the time because of broken sewers in uMlazi Township.

This hasn’t, however, prevented the Metro Water Authority from receiving an award for its work on water in Umlazi. Check this citation, from the UN’s Urban Infrastructure and Services Practices database

In Umlazi (population 262,000) for example, blockages have been reduced from approximately 1300 per month to 300 – 400 per month, after a period of about one and a half to two years. Sewage blockages throughout the Metro area have resulted in savings equivalent to US$ 200,000. The education campaign has reached 141,646 learners and 212,104 adults. The entire education programme has been introduced in 226 schools and many clinics. In addition, within the period of one year, 550 street theatre performances were held in the Durban metropolitan area, reaching approximately a further 35,600 adults and 40,000 school children.

Aww, bless. No toilets for the settlements, sewers that are falling apart, but street theatre can still win you prizes from the United Nations.

Unclear what the prize will be for today’s street theatre, but I’ll be damned if the police don’t pay a very high price. I want payback, not least because Nayager’s tactic worked. He scared me. After he took my camera away, I was so fucking gobsmacked, that I just stood there. Stood there when System Cele, a 19 year old woman, who had come to the protest with her infant, was marched to the police van. I managed a hoarse “Hey, System”. And then the police threw her in the back of the van. When they got her to the police station, they interrogated her, asked her to confess that S’bu Zikode – the leader of the Abahlali base Mjondolo, the informal settlement dweller’s association – forced her to march. She said “there are people marching all over the world. Can S’bu be making them all do it?”. They smashed her face into the ground, and broke her teeth.

In fact, S’bu had been advocating that people not march, because he knew that the march had been banned (illegally, more here) by the council. But people wanted to march, and that was that. And slowly, it’s turning out to be payback time, not merely for me, but for Durban’s poorest people. This week, the council, and Mayor Mlaba in particular, are going to fry.

Okay, it’s late and I’m beginning to fade. I realise that I’ve mainly told the stories of middle-class activists here, because those are the ones I’ve heard so far. But theirs won’t be the last stories, nor the most important. More soon.

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