The ‘Boiketlong Four’ and the Criminalisation of Poverty and Protest:
Freedom for Dinah and Sipho, Justice for Papi!
The Boiketlong Four
In February 2015, four community activists from Boiketlong in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, were sentenced to 16 years in prison each following a community protest. This is a very severe sentence and the conviction was based on shaky evidence. The ‘Boiketlong Four’ were arrested for allegedly attacking the local ANC ward councillor and setting fire to her shack and two cars during a community protest. They were convicted of assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, arson and malicious injury to property. This is an example of a terrible injustice perpetrated against black working class activists and could have dangerous repercussions for future struggles of the black working class and poor in South Africa if it is not fought. People need to be aware of the facts and take action to demand justice and to fight the criminalisation of poverty and protest.
Evidence presented by the prosecutor in court was shaky and state witnesses either couldn’t identify the four accused or place them at the scene at the time. To convict them the state used the 1973 apartheid law of so-called ‘common purpose’, meaning they were found guilty simply because they were leaders of the community; even though no evidence conclusively connecting the four with the burning of the councillor’s house or cars was presented. At least one of the four, Dinah Makhetha, was not even present at the time.