From Haymarket to Sebokeng: the Struggle Continues

A comrade fighting for water and housing in Sebokeng, south of Johannesburg, was murdered by police on the night of April 30. The ZACF condemns the latest outrage in a long tale of repression of working class movements, and calls on the oppressed to stand firm in struggle.

On 1 May 1886, the workers of the United States went on strike for the eight-hour day. It was not long before they faced the wrath of the police, the repressive forces of the state, the defenders of capital. The cops murdered four workers at a picket in Chicago on 3 May. A peaceful gathering was held the following day in Chicago’s Haymarket Square to protest; the cops ordered the workers to disperse; an unknown person threw a bomb at the forces of repression; the defenders of capital opened fire; at least 50 people were killed, including several cops who shot at each other. Eight anarchists were charged with the bombing. There was never any evidence that any of them had anything to do with it; but in a farcical trial, all were convicted, for no other reason than their commitment to the liberation of the workers. Four were executed.

Every May Day, the workers of the world remember the martyrs of the struggle for the eight-hour day. But the struggle continues. And to this day, the cops, far from defending justice and the rule of law, remain ready to murder working class militants in defence of capital.

On 29 April 2008, the people of Sebokeng Ward 2 (south of Johannesburg) blockaded the Golden Highway to campaign against the introduction of prepaid water meters; to protest against houses that had been built on a landfill and were sinking into the earth; and to demand the resignation of the municipal councillor who had lied to them and refused to respond to their complaints. Once again, the police opened fire with live ammunition. This time no one was injured; but that night the cops went from door to door in Sebokeng, and arrested more than 10 working class militants. As is usual with social movement militants in South Africa today, those arrested were charged with public violence. As usual, the cops knew the charges would not stand up. The comrades were released the following day, and the charges have been dropped.

But this is not the end of the story.

One comrade, Mathaseni, a militant of the Sebokeng Ward 2 Concerned Residents and the Coalition Against Water Privatisation (CAWP), was severely beaten in custody, and hospitalised. He was released from hospital on 30 April. He was arrested again that evening. Today, 1 May 2008, 122 years after the Haymarket strike, he was found dead. (The ZACF has not yet been able to learn comrade Mathaseni’s surname.)

As at Haymarket, the cops are determined to crush the working class struggle. As at Haymarket, if they cannot suppress us legally, they turn to lies, violence and murder. It may be that they seek those who they see as “leaders” of the resistance, or it may be that they wish to throw the whole movement of the working class into fear and terror, but their aim is clear: to keep us in poverty and slavery by force.

But we will not be cowed. The struggle continues.

The CAWP and the Concerned Residents have called for an investigation of Mathaseni’s murder, and for the disbanding of the local Community Policing Forum, which has been heavily involved in the repression of the working class movement. The ZACF supports these demands.

At the same time, we go further, seeing Mathaseni’s murder as part of the repression of the working class that has been going on since Haymarket and long before.

Yesterday, 30 April, the Johannesburg high court ruled that the forced installation of prepaid water meters was illegal, violating the constitutional right to water. This was a victory for the working class, organised in the Coalition Against Water Privatisation and the Anti-Privatisation Forum. But against the armed force of the state, legal decisions alone will not secure the needs of the workers and the poor. The Johannesburg metro council is proposing to increase water tariffs, and to cut down even the paltry “free basic water” they have promised to deliver. Why should they be deterred by a mere court decision, when they have the cops to crack down on us? The people of Sebokeng demanded nothing other than their rights to water and housing, recognised even under South Africa’s capitalist constitution. But their demands were met with denial, with bullets, with arrest, with torture, with murder.

The police force exists for no other purpose than to keep the workers and the poor in slavery, the capitalists and the politicians in power. We cannot call on the cops to protect us from crime, when they are the armed force of the biggest criminals of all. It is only by self-organisation, self-defence and direct action that we can win water, houses, electricity or decent working conditions – and ultimately build a great global movement of the workers, the poor and the peasants, to free ourselves of the cancers of greedy capitalists, lying politicians and murderous cops.


Issued by Zabalaza Anarchist Communist Front
and Anarchist Black Cross South Africa,
1 May 2008

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s