There were running battles on the streets of Pretoria on Friday as the South African Police Service threw stun grenades and fired rubber bullets at #NotInMyName activists picketing outside the embassy of Zimbabwe in Pretoria.
THERE were running battles on the streets of Pretoria on Friday as the South African Police Service threw stun grenades and fired rubber bullets at #NotInMyName activists picketing outside the embassy of Zimbabwe in Pretoria.
As the crowd of activists started gathering outside the embassy – singing, chanting and denouncing the government led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Zimbabwe – members of the SAPS instructed the #NotInMyName leaders to tell their members to disperse immediately.
The #NotInMyName leaders, including president Siyabulela Jentile and secretary-general Themba Masango, insisted that they had been granted permission by the SAPS to picket at the embassy.
“You members of the SAPS are dragging us into your internal squabbles. We have proof which shows that we were given permission to gather here and picket. We have shown you that proof and our communication with your colleagues in SAPS,” lamented Masango.
“We are peaceful people, and we have sought permission to gather here. How come you have allowed political parties to protest at the United States embassy which is close by after George Floyd was killed, but when it comes to Zimbabwe you apply different rules? The SAPS applies the law selectively.”
Masango said the SAPS was conniving with the Zimbabwean government to suppress the picket.
“We are here to denounce what is happening in our neighbouring country. What is disheartening is that the same police officers who we live with in the townships are sent to suppress a legal gathering.
“They do not want this message to be heard. Zimbabweans stood with us during the dark days of apartheid and now it is our turn,” he said.
Jentile took to the podium, accusing the SAPS of harassment.
“We are not afraid of being arrested. We have permission to be here and to express our grievances. If they want to arrest us, they can arrest us all.
“What is happening today shows cracks in leadership and internal power squabbles within the South African Police Service,” he said.
“We were granted permission to demonstrate, yet the same SAPS forcefully urged us to disperse. We continue to stand with the people of Zimbabwe.
“We will not be silenced, and we will not back down until peace and justice is restored in Zimbabwe.”
A SAPS captain identified only as Modise said he was in charge of the public order policing.
“I am the operational commander here. We are not going to allow you to be here. I am giving you minutes to vanish from here. There is no protest happening here today,” said Modise.
Minutes later, Modise threw stun grenades at the crowd, sending the activists fleeing. Other police officers chased the activists in different directions, firing rubber bullets.
Jentile told African News Agency that a member of #NotInMyName had been arrested, while others were wounded by the rubber bullets.
– African News Agency (ANA)