/ 12 August 2013

Peter arrested again for alleged kidnapping

Social activist Angy Peter.
Social activist Angy Peter. (David Harrison, M&G)

Peter's colleagues and residents in the crime-ridden area are adamant the 32-year-old is being targeted because of her involvement in following up on complaints against police in the area. 

The feisty activist has also collected numerous affidavits from residents against police officers which have been handed in to the commission, set up last year by Premier Helen Zille. 

Peter's colleagues at the civic organisation, the Social Justice Coalition, say they have no doubt the fresh charges laid against her have "once again been trumped up".

"This is yet another blatant attempt to intimidate and to harass Angy and her family," said Joel Bregman, senior researcher at the Social Justice Coalition.

"The pattern that has emerged since October last year – this is the fourth case against her since then – indicates a concerted effort against her that is being directed from corrupt forces in the South African Police Service."

Although it began its proceedings last year, the Khayelitsha commission of inquiry is currently on ice as it is the subject of a court dispute by Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa. This followed the commission's move to subpoena police officers who had shown a lack of co-operation when it called for records and information. 

The Khayelitsha commission of inquiry is being headed by retired judge Kate O'Regan and former National Prosecuting Authority boss Vusi Pikoli.

Angry community
Mthethwa's intervention in the process has earned the wrath of concerned Khayelitsha residents, who have been calling for an investigation into poor and corrupt policing over the past few years. The Social Justice Coalition believes the rise in mob violence against alleged criminals in townships like Khayelitsha is directly releated to the community's lack of confidence in the police. There were more than 20 mob killings in Khayelitsha alone in the past year.

The police minister's actions have now stalled the commission and the dispute has now landed up at the Consitutional Court. The matter is still under review.

Kidnapping and murder charges were brought last year against Peter and her partner Isaac Mbadu, who also works as an activist at the Social Justice Coalition, the couple were granted bail in this case. This was small comfort to Peter and Mbadu, as both had spent months in communal cells at Pollsmoor Prison. Even though Peter was heavily pregnant and sick at the time, she was not given any special treatment, she told the Mail & Guardian.

For the couple, life has rapidly descended into a nightmare. One minute Peter was recognised as a human rights activist with a bright future, and her happiness was complete when she met and fell in love with Mbadu. The next minute they were both arrested by police for the murder of Rowan du Preez, a known thief in the area.

Neighbours told the M&G that Peter had twice protected Du Preez from a necklacing by irate residents, and they certainly did not believe she had kidnapped or murdered him.

After the charges against them were withdrawn, Peter and Mbadu were both released shortly before Christmas last year, but their attempt at trying to live a normal life again was soon shattered.

Police raided their home in Mfuleni township, across the highway from Khayelitsha, at 3am three months later. To Peter's horror, the plain clothes police officers even searched the crib of their six-week-old son Alex, claiming they were looking for a cellphone.

Frightening raids
The M&G visited Peter and Mbadu at their home, made up of zinc and cardboard, shortly after the early morning raid. The couple held hands, their fingers clenching as they told of attempts by police to "intimidate them".

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

While the couple recounted their story, children ran in and out of the house, which was being severely battered by the wind. Framed photographs of the smiling children adorned the shelves. 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 Peter, who was visibly distraught and still shaken. "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."

As happened during her previous arrest, police declined to provide scant detail of evidence against her this week when contacted by the M&G.

"Charges against her is kidnapping and pointing of a firearm. Police cannot elaborate on the evidence against her as it currently forms part of the investigation," said Captain Frederick Van Wyk of the Western Cape police media centre.

Court appearances
Western Cape provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Arno Lamoer has agreed to see members of the Social Justice Coalition sometime this week to hear their complaints about the police action against Peter.

Bregman said he and his colleagues believe Peter's treatment by police is totally unacceptable.  

"Angy was picked up by police on Wednesday August 7 at her home. She understood that this was for questioning and went willingly to Site B police station," said Bregman. "Angy was formally charged the following day [August 8] with kidnapping. The police allege that she, along with others, kidnapped a man and he was put in the boot of a car. He allegedly managed to escape and reported it to the police."

Peter appeared in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court on Monday, where the prosecution requested a postponement to clarify particulars, which was granted, said Bregman. 

However, in yet another blow for Peter, the state has already indicated it will oppose bail for the young activist when she applies in the Khayelitsha Magistrate's Court on Thursday this week, .

Her colleagues are now gearing up for another battle to try to get Peter freed from jail. While the Social Justice Commission had offered her a "safe house" after she was released from Pollsmoor, she declined to take them up on the offer. She had tried that before and missed her own home.

While her home in Mfuleni is in an impoverished community, this is where she has made many close friends and it is, she said, "home to me".

"How can I move to another safe house?" she asked the M&G after the raid in April. "This is the only home I have ever known."