South African police have arrested 49 activists after opening fire on two protests on Thursday of last week. These include Trevor Ngwane, a well known figure in anti-privatisation campaigns.
Many of those arrested are members of the Democratic Left Front (DLF), which includes the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation.
The 15 people arrested in Tsakane, east of Johannesburg, are accused of public violence and looting. But they were arrested at 11am and police say looting began at 1pm.
Protests there began on Monday of last week against the disconnection of illegal electricity connections by the Red Ants, a paramilitary private security firm. Police came in to support the Red Ants on Thursday and opened fire with rubber bullets.
One child was killed and another seriously injured. Residents of Thembelihle, near Soweto, had been protesting over housing and water supplies. Police opened fire and several protesters were hospitalised. Witnesses believe police were using live rounds.
This appears to be part of a crackdown from above targeting leadership figures. The ANC government is scared of a growing mood of resistance. It is particularly worried by the coming launch of the United Front launched by the largest union Numsa.
Those arrested were held in custody for several days. They urgently need money to help with their legal fees.