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Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement

Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign Press Statement

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Friday, 4th July, 2008

Delft-Symphony -- On Wednesday, July 2nd at the Bellville Magistrates Court courtroom E, two members of the Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign, Jerome Daniels and Ridwaan Isaacs, were each sentenced twelve months in prison - simply for being community leaders at Delft-Symphony Way settlement. Both maintained their innocence on charges of malicious destruction of property brought by Elmory Isaacs, a former resident of the same settlement, who presented no evidence beyond her own testimony.

During a two hour trial in which the activities of the Anti-Eviction Campaign featured prominently, Ms Isaacs testified that these two community leaders had threatened her with knives of and slashed her tent. Under cross examination, Ms Isaacs conceded that all the evicted occupants of the Delft Symphony N2 Gateway homes had begun their pavement encampment by agreeing as a group to remove any resident who threatened or attacked another. Moreover, she also acknowledged that on the evening in question an individual she had allowed to live in her tent unsupervised had violently threatened another community member. However, she became agitated when asked questions about whether these threats violated this agreement, shouting "this is not about Johnny. This is about my tent, my property." Without presenting any evidence or calling any other witnesses, the prosecution rested its case.

During his testimony, Mr. Daniels, explained that he had verbally intervened to prevent the occupant of Ms Isaac's tent from making good on his threats. But when residents of Symphony Way learned of what had occurred, the community decided to remove this person from the settlement to prevent any future violence from occurring. He insisted that rather than taking part in taking down her tent, he had sought to prevent residents from taking such drastic action.

For his part, Ridwaan Isaacs testified that he had not been in that part of the Symphony Way section when community members dismantled Ms Isaac's tent. It was only later that night that he learned of what had occurred. Another resident of the Symphony Way settlement, Mrs. Evelyn Mokoena, corroborated the testimony of both Mr Isaacs and Mr Daniels. She stated that dozens of community members took the decision to dismantle the tent and took action over the objections of Mr Daniels. Mr Isaacs, she insisted, was not there.

During the course of this testimony, Magistrate Van Graan from Court E, repeatedly interrupted the defence and prosecution attorneys to question defendants about their involvement in the Anti-Eviction Campaign. When Mrs Evelyn Mokoena responded that it was the community that was responsible for making the decision to dismantle the tent, he interjected, "I can't understand under what circumstances does the community take a decision?" When Mrs Mokoena explained that in the informal settlement the community is responsible for making its own decisions, Magistrate Van Graan responded, "Is this what is happening in this country? Is this thing justifiable?"

In closing, the defendants' attorney reiterated that the preceding testimony had proven that neither defendant had touched Ms Daniel's property, with each witness corroborating the other. After a five minute recess, Magistrate Van Graan delivered a guilty verdict, quoting case law that justified his dismissal of the defence's testimony and only accepting that of Ms Isaacs. He explained that while he could not sentence the community, some one had to take responsibility for this offence. In response, the defence attorney recommended a warning, noting that both defendants had children and were currently volunteered their time supporting the residents of Symphony Way. The prosecutor, in response suggested a fine but did not suggest any jail-time for the defendants. However Magistrate Van Graan imposed a twelve month sentence at Goodwood Prison, with a possibility of a six month suspension for good behaviour. While he acknowledged that this charge was not as serious as a murder or rape conviction, he argued that he needed to hold the defendants responsible and teach the Anti-Eviction Campaign a lesson.

Upon hearing of this verdict, the residents of Symphony Way condemned it as unjust and called upon all struggling communities to support them in their effort in seeking the release of Mr. Daniels and Mr. Isaacs before the end of the month. "There are murderers and rapist walking around," asked Mrs Mokoena. "Why aren't they locking them up for twelve months?" Symphony Way resident Francis Jantjies objected to the verdict: "it seems like the justice system in South Africa is not right. Who did the investigation in this case? How are these two being sent to prison for something that the community did?"

Residents of the AEC settlement in Symphony Way believe that Mr Isaacs and Mr. Daniels are political prisoners who are being convicted of something they did not do merely because they are dedicated activists fighting for better lives for their families and community

The Delft Anti-Eviction Campaign is now seeking to raise R7 000 towards an appeal of these convictions. They are also accepting donations to go to the families of Mr. Daniels and Isaacs. The prisoners also desperately need money to by necessities in the prison: socks, underwear, deodorant, razors, telkom cards, etc.

ends


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