COSATU on arrest of David Masondo

Statement issued by union federation July 17 2008

COSATU condemns xenophobic attack on YCL leader

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has learned with anger of the bloody assault by officers from Sandringham Police Station on David Masondo, National Chairperson of the Young Communist League of South Africa, and a member of the Central Committee of the South African Communist Party, both organisations which are among COSATU's working-class allies within the tripartite alliance.

Cde Masondo was stopped at a roadblock while jogging in his tracksuit in the suburb where he lives. When addressed by two police officers he answered in his first language, Shangaan (a language spoken both in South Africa and in Mozambique), whereupon the officers called him a "(swearword) foreigner". While the first two officers were harassing him in this way, a third more senior one intervened to say that they should calm down and search Cde David.

As one was searching him, and while Cde David consequently had his hands up in the air, the other one suddenly and without any provocation punched him in the face, starting a fracas during which several other officers assaulted him. They then took him to the police station, trumped up a charge against him, and continued to mistreat him until eventually, later, and with the assistance of his fellow SACP Central Committee members, Solly Mapaila and YCL National Secretary Buti Manamela, he was released from custody. In the process, Cdes Mapaila and Manamela were also threatened with arrest.

David Masondo is a distinguished and respected South African national leader who is also a renowned university lecturer, who will shortly be going to work at New York University for a year with the internationally famous academic David Harvey and others. He was prominent among those who spoke on public platforms condemning the xenophobic pogroms that began on 11 May 2008 in Alexandra Township, not more than two kilometres from where he lives, and where he has now himself been beaten up in a xenophobic attack - by the police!

COSATU is particularly shocked that this should have happened to a gentle person whom we know and love, and who is a valued part of the national leadership of the movement. We are determined to defend our leaders.

The federation has consistently denounced xenophobia and are well aware that it most often affects the most vulnerable people in our country, including members of our affiliated unions and others who have few friends at all to defend them.

COSATU therefore backs the YCL's demand that the xenophobic officers who assaulted Cde David Masondo should be subjected to an exemplary, rigorous, and speedy disciplinary process to demonstrate to the country that the South African Police Service intends to mend its ways and purge xenophobia from its own ranks, not just in Sandringham and Alexandra, but everywhere in South Africa.

It is intolerable to COSATU that the very force that is supposed to protect everyone in the country, of whatever origin, should be continuing to prove in incidents like this, of which we believe there are many every single day, that it is itself riddled with xenophobia.

Statement issued by COSATU July 17 2008