Councillor spends nine days in prison for “doing his job”
Anele Yawa is a proportional representative councillor in Uitenhage. In August he spent nine days in prison. He alleges his only crime was to do his job.
Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape has been the site of land protests that have turned violent in recent months. On 14 August community members invaded a vacant piece of land in protest at not having been allocated land for RDP housing. Before the invasion, they had tried in vain to arrange a meeting with ward councillors Nomonde Booy and Thembisile Gana. So they erected shacks on a vacant piece of land. The municipality office responded by getting a court interdict to have the community members removed.
After this the community members held a picket outside the councillors’ office without a permit. The picket turned violent and the protesters set fire to the councillors’ office and later moved on to do the same to Booy’s house.
Earlier that day Anele Yawa, a Proportional Representative (PR) working for the Nelson Mandela Municipality had met with the angry community members to record their concerns and demands. He says he was not even at the scene of the protests. He later heard that the police were also looking for him, implicating him as a suspect in the chain of events. Yawa voluntarily went to the police station on 14 August to ask why the police were looking for him and he was told that he was implicated in the violent protest that led to the councillor’s home being burnt down. He was arrested at the police station that he voluntarily went to. Yawa says that two other innocent passers-by he met in prison were also arrested, including a pregnant woman who was on her way to buy electricity when she passed the demonstration.
Charges of public violence were brought against Yawa. He appeared before the magistrate on 17 August. He as well as the two people he alleges were innocent passers-by were denied bail because they were deemed possible flight risks.
Yawa hired a lawyer, Ntsikelelo Mbewana, who applied for an urgent bail application. The magistrate granted all three bail and they were released on 26 August after spending nine days in prison.
When Mbewana asked for the dockets the charges against Yawa had changed to include arson. Mbewana says that it appears the charges against the two apparent passers-by will be dropped.
“If the court system in South Africa was controlled by a computerized system instead of people the whole system would be fair. As it stand now things don’t run smoothly and fairly because they are influenced by people. It’s all about who you are and who you know that determines how smoothly your case will go. My only crime was to do my job well by appearing when the community members called on me,” explained Yawa.
After many telephonic and email attempts to reach the South African Police Service (SAPS) for a comment on Anele Yawa’s arrest they declined to comment. Eventually Marianette Olivier of SAPS wrote in an email, “I can’t comment on the procedures of the court. The court decided on the next appearance dates. The question on why he was arrested and not on the scene. It must be dispute in court.”
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