Open Letter: Cele Must Go and SAPS must Demilitarize

 In C19PC Statements

C-19 People’s Coalition

19 March 2021

Cele Must Go and SAPS must Demilitarize re: the Senseless Killing of Mthokozisi Ntumba and others.


The COVID-19 People’s Coalition extends its condolences to the family, of the late Mr. Mthokozisi Ntumba. That he died in the brutal manner he did at the hands of SAPS makes his death the more deeply felt by us.

We condemn the senseless killing of Mr. Ntumba on 10 March 2021 during a student march in Braamfontein. Mthokozisi Ntumba (35), a husband and father of four young children is the latest victim of SAPS’ violence, increasingly inflicted on the people of South Africa.

He is amongst many gunned down in cavalier fashion by state forces during the COVID-19 lockdown and even before. We also name some of those others similarly killed: Collins-Khoza, Nathaniel Julies, Adane Emmanuel, Petrus Miggels, Sibusiso Amos, and further back to Marikana, Andries Tatane and many others. We extend our condolences to their loved ones too.

Mr. Ntumba was killed during the WITS students marching peacefully and righteously against student debt, fees increases and various financial exclusions when they came under fire from SAPS.

At any time and for whatever reason, excessive state force is unacceptable. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as countless people suffer intensely on numerous fronts, such force is devastating. We share the students’ and public’s outrage at Mr. Ntumba’s murder and at the the government’s persistent austerity measures which it foists on us with increasing violence via its armed forces.

We ask: how dare the government use such cruel and sadistic force against its people, mostly those who are poor, black and working class who are trying to access their basic needs and rights?

The right of our people to protest to bring social justice issues and their needs to the state’s attention was hard fought for during the anti-apartheid struggle and is enshrined in our Constitution, our highest law.

The 2021 austerity budget and related financial exclusions of poor and working class university students and the hardships their communities face via increasing unemployment, poverty and non-access to grants and the fiscus are legitimate concerns for students and communities to protest over without coming to harm. The government squanders hundreds of billions of rands to corrupt neo-liberal politicians and capitalists but claims austerity when it comes to educating our youth and providing other basic needs for our people. Government must take full responsibility for our students having to constantly take to the streets to access their right to free and/or affordable, quality decolonized education as well as other groups and communities for their rights.

We demand that students and communities not be molested by the state when exercising their right to protest about the government’s derelictions over our socioeconomic rights.

We reaffirm our support for the students’ and their just cause in calling out the financial exclusions identified at various levels—exclusion from further education for them and from socio-economic access by their families and communities.

We join our students in committing to continued protest against every injustice experienced by any and all in our country, including the uncivilized killings of Mr. Ntumba and all others by the state while engaging in social justice struggles. They did nothing wrong but their lives were wantonly taken by an increasingly authoritarian state that is meting out violence to its people for no rational reason. It’s sole reason for such violence is to continue with its neo-liberal mismanagement of the country. This path condemns the majority people to various hardships, poverty and exclusions from the economy and social institutions, including decent family lives, and access to education and health, amongst other things.

The students have rightly called for the resignation of the Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, over Mr. Ntumba’s death and the minister’s derelictions regarding their higher education demands for free and decolonized education. Decolonized education will build the free and dignified society in which ALL people can live without lack, disrespect, marginalization or fear (*Please join in endorsing the wider independent Statement of Solidarity with Students here [link] ). 

Following the students’ principled lead, we also call for the immediate resignation of the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele. As a minister, he has proven time and again to be an inept, bullying and pompous holder of this office. Moreover, that office has become increasingly militarized and oppressive, functioning with a heavy hand and without accountability for the numerous deaths and injuries it enables, including in collusion with private security forces employed to violently police the people.

We demand Minister Cele be removed and replaced by someone competent who can lead with the restraint and ethics required for civilian-oriented policing. And that also means a complete shift in policy to demilitarized policing that serves rather than brutalizes, murders, maims and punishes the people. We further demand other viable alternatives to armed forces to promote safety and rule of law in our communities and society. This is a key aspect of a decolonized society for which we are fighting in order to bring an end to the cycles of colonial-capitalist-patriarchal socio-economic and political violence that have bedeviled our land for centuries.

We call on the people of South Africa to support these demands so our students and all others can be safe when protesting for their rights, or simply living their lives in the attempt to survive the difficult COVID-19 pandemic. And to attain the radically equal society and future we are striving for.

Issued by the COVID-19 People’s Coalition

For more information, contact:
Motsi Khokhoma, C-19 PC’s Free State WG, & Botshabelo Unemployed Movement, 073 490 7623
Roshila Nair, C-19 PC’s Basic Needs WG, 064 877 0434
Patrick Shuster, C-19 PC’s Education WG, 083 864 9528

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