Children of Fire's representatives in Johannesburg suffered two years of
severe intimidation in one squatter camp in particular, where the upright
citizens are almost under siege by people with vested interests in their
overall safety not improving. This has led to a series of charges being laid at
Brixton police station and at Florida police station in particular. Charges
include intimidation, incitement to violence, illegal gathering, malicious
damage to property and crimen injuria. This has led to a series of charges
being laid at Brixton police station and at Florida police station in
particular. Charges include intimidation, incitement to violence, illegal
gathering, malicious damage to property and crimen injuria.
It seemed at one stage that the good people are winning through,
especially when in January 2002 they organised a legal march to present their
ward councillor with an eight page Memorandum of Dissatisfaction.
While intimidation continued, the matter was raised - to little effect -
with Amos Masondo, the Executive Mayor of Johannesburg. Steve Tshwete, the
National Minister for Safety and Security, promised to assist but sadly died in
Two Members of Parliament were also asked to help but did nothing
constructive at all, one even dropping the phone on a community worker who rang
the MP in tears, asking for help!
Children of Fire often has to work in dangerous areas, and to try to
combat fire and other sources of burns injuries, has had to become involved in
overall community safety and empowerment.
Through a small cash donation from the people of Wivenhoe in Essex, UK,
specifically for work that would not normally be encompassed by the charity, an
advice centre was run briefly by a man called James Phosa, to help the Joe
Slovo squatter camp residents in Coronation, Johannesburg, with a wide range of
social problems. He was paid for his time and for transport to go to places
like Wits Law Clinic. This has evolved into the registration of a residents
association as a section 21 company, due to be complete by March 2003.
The case of crimen injuria seemed not to have been followed through by
Florida SAPS at all. Despite being given ample notice of physical evidence that
could be collected, they chose not to do so in the time that it would have
still be traceable. Despite being given some five names of reliable witnesses
(black and white, rich and poor), they elected not to interview them -
sometimes claiming "lack of transport". Despite being given nine photographs of
an illegal gathering and defamatory posters, an Inspector Jonkers phoned
Children of Fire in January 2003 to say that the public prosecutor had decided
not to follow through with the case.
The matter will now be taken to the Regional Police Commissioner by the
charity as it appears to the general public that as the alleged perpetrators of
the crime are politicians, that they are in some way above the law. Community
workers have to know that they can be apolitical and still be protected by the