/ 8 April 2013

New kidnapping claims against Khayelitsha activist ‘trumped up’

New Kidnapping Claims Against Khayelitsha Activist 'trumped Up'

On both occasions when the police raided her home in Mfuleni township in Cape Town, they came without an arrest warrant, and 32-year-old Peter was not at home.

Her employer, the non-governmental organisation Social Justice Coalition, believes the kidnapping allegations are further trumped up charges being laid against Peter, who has been lauded as the face of the commission of inquiry into policing in Khayelitsha.

Peter had dealt with most of the complaints against police and collected affidavits from residents on behalf of the Social Justice Coalition. In addition to this, she and other residents had laid charges against a police officer for corruption, and she was expected to be a chief witness at the commission.

Peter's colleagues say her predicament is a classic example of why a commission of inquiry into policing is so necessary.

However, the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry, which was set up by Western Cape Premier Helen Zille last August, is currently the subject of a court dispute. Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa has been widely condemned in Khayelitsha for opposing the commission, and his case is now headed to the Constitutional Court.

According to Social Justice Coalition senior researcher, Joel Bregman, Peter and six-week old Alex are no longer living at home for their own security.

"The fact she has a newborn baby just makes these new charges all the more ridiculous," said Joel. "She has been sitting at home looking after her baby."

The Social Justice Coalition maintains that charges of murder against Peter and and her partner Isaac Mbadu are fabricated, and her colleagues said these fresh charges of kidnapping against Peter are equally as absurd.

Two weeks ago, police raided their home in Mfuleni at 3am in the morning. To her horror, the plain clothes police officers even searched the crib of her tiny six-week old son Alex, claiming they were looking for a cellphone.

For the couple, life has rapidly descended into a nightmare. One minute Peter was recognised as a human rights activist with a bright future. She had also met and fallen in love with Isaac Mbadu, who also worked as an activist with her at the Social Justice Coalition, and was pregnant with his child when they were both arrested by police last year for the murder of Rowan du Preez. They were released on bail shortly before Christmas, after spending 10 weeks in detention at Pollsmoor Prison.

The police have not revealed what evidence they have against the couple on the murder charges, and their colleagues believe they have been set up.

Last week the Mail & Guardian visited Peter and Mbadu at their home, and the couple held hands, their fingers clenching as they told of attempts by police to "intimidate them".

Mbadu said the experience of the previous raid had been frightening for the family, as some of the police officers had jumped their fence to enter the property.

While the couple recounted their story, children ran in and out of the zinc and cardboard house, which was being battered by the wind.

No time
With five young children between them, there was no time to just sit and cry, admitted Peter.

"The police didn't have uniforms on. One of them was wearing a bullet proof police vest," said a visibly upset Peter. "We asked them where their search warrant was, and they had to go back to the police station to get it. We still don't even know what they were hoping to find."

Mfuleni residents knew Du Preez, as someone who had frequently been in trouble with the law. Referred to as "Roy" by residents, Du Preez had been arrested in the past for stealing from the community. Last year Du Preez admitted to stealing Peter's television from her home, and the angry community persuaded him to become involved in a "sting operation." Du Preez was asked to call the police officer he claimed to be working with to tell him he had some more stolen goods, which he did, Peter said.

A police officer duly arrived in Mfuleni and residents hid and watched him open his boot for Du Preez. Residents then reported the police officer and Du Preez to police, and laid charges against them.

Du Preez's body was later found necklaced in the area, yet Peter's neighbours confirmed they did not believe she would have ever been involved in his death, as she had publicly saved him from this fate on at least two occasions in the past.

Peter told the M&G she was now even more frightened by the bizarre sequence of events, as one of Du Preez's friends was recently found murdered close to her home in a field where children play soccer by day. "Roy's friend was found necklaced. Who killed him, and why?" she asked.

Having spent 10 weeks in Pollsmoor Prison, Peter said it had taken a toll on her health. The couple were released on bail in time for Christmas with their children. Despite the fact the couple had been raided twice since they came out of prison, she had refused to take up the offer of a "safe house", she said.

"This is the only home I have ever known," she explained, looking at the family photographs on a mantelpiece.

The Social Justice Coalition maintains that the allegations against Peter and Mbadu are fabricated.

"We see this as a clear case of police harassment and intimidation against two human rights activists who speak out against problems with policing in their community," said Bregman after the last raid on Peter's home.

"Numerous incidents portray a pattern of police abuse of power and an attempt to bully Angy and Isaac, and make life difficult for them and their family. The most recent example of this was the raid at their home at 3h00 in the morning. The police were not wearing uniforms, provided an incomplete search warrant, did not search in all of the rooms and made comments to the effect of 'We will get you'."

Now Peter and little Alex are no longer staying at home, but there is no telling when the couple's mounting problems will come to an end.

Provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer told the M&G last week he had been informed there had been a complaint about the earlier raids.

"We are still investigating the murder case against them," he said. "And we are looking into the complaint from the couple."

Asked when the investigation into charges of murder against the couple would be completed, Lamoer said it was unknown, as investigations could take any length of time. The M&G has sent further questions to police about the latest raids, as well as the fresh allegations of kidnapping against Peter.