Activist in dramatic plea as delays add up

David Macgregor

A PENNILESS anti- apartheid activist who has appeared in a Grahamstown court eight times on a R500 malicious damage to property charge raised eyebrows yesterday when he pleaded to be jailed until sentence.

Serial window smasher Velile Ben Mafani, who has made headlines several times over the past 10 years for throwing bricks at the Grahamstown High Court, said lengthy delays were making his continued freedom unaffordable.

The request by the Glenmore forced removals activist fell on deaf ears, however, when relief magistrate Makhetha Pheko withdrew a warrant for Mafani’s arrest after he previously failed to appear in court – and released him on warning again. A dejected Mafani – who for years has been unable to find work – said delays since January meant he was paying a high price for his freedom.

“Every time I come to court in Grahamstown from Glenmore, it costs me R70 in taxi fares. I have spent R560 on eight taxi trips since January for windows that cost R525 to repair,” he said.

Already found guilty on three previous occasions since 2004 for smashing high court windows, Mafani was given a suspended sentence the last time for malicious damage to property and now faces two years behind bars and a R4000 fine.

The 58-year-old, however, vowed yesterday to keep smashing windows until the government properly addressed the forced removal of thousands of people who were dumped in a Ciskei dustbowl in the late 1970s by the apartheid government.

“They can lock me up for two years or even 10 years, I don’t care – when I get out, I will break more windows,” he said.

“The only way to stop me doing this is to jail me for life – or sort out problems in Glenmore.”

He said he was targeting the high court to highlight an unjust ruling a Grahamstown judge had made in 1979 that rubber-stamped the removal of thousands of people to Glenmore.

Comprising people originally uprooted from Coega, Colchester, Klipfontein and other Eastern Cape communities, the once close- knit Glenmore community has been divided ever since a land claims court ruled not all claimants would get compensation for their suffering.

Pheko ordered Mafani to appear in court on September 12 for plea and trial.

“Everybody knows I smashed the windows, I even waited to be arrested after I did it,” Mafani said later.

“I have nothing to live for anymore. The thought of justice is the only thing that keeps me going.”

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