IN 2007 I was arrested and thrown into jail for suggesting to a Heart 104.9 news anchor that she should go on air with a story about the rejection of a news item about the late Robbie Jansen. Cape Town isn’t a racist city according to DA leader Helen Zille, but it certainly feels this way. With the mayor Patricia de Lille accusing the ‘Take back the Commons’ movement in today’s Cape Times of being nothing more than “‘a political stunt utilising the bluntest forms of the politics of race”, I am left wondering if the blunt object is not in the hands of people like Zulpha Khan, or the mayor?
As the “People’s Jobs Land & Housing Summit” was being villified by De Lille, not merely for being unlawful but also for being an “immanent danger to society”, and the SAPS were being urged into action — were we not all in fact dangerous “agents of destruction“? Wealthy home-owners were being whipped up into a feeding frenzy by the press, who were complaining about the potential for a “land invasion” only to backtrack when it transpired Daniel Corder was one of those arrested.
Would editors have been so supportive if they had not also been called by foreign correspondents from Namibia and elsewhere, who, acting upon our tweets and uploaded Youtube video, were also being informed about the police brutality occurring in our midsts — in the posh suburb of Rondebosch?
Imminent danger in law is an immediate threat of harm, which varies depending on the context in which it is used. For example, one statute defines imminent danger in relation to mines as “the existence of any condition or practice in a mine which could reasonably be expected to cause death or serious physical harm to any worker if mine operations were to proceed in the affected area or if workers were to enter the affected area before the condition or practice was eliminated.”
Some laws allow use of deadly force when imminent danger is present. Typical considerations to find imminent danger include the attacker’s apparent intent to cause great bodily injury or death, the device used by the attacker to cause great bodily injury or death, and the attacker’s opportunity and ability to use the means to cause great bodily injury of death.
In South Africa the idea has been used to imprison anti-apartheid activists and other people deemed threats to society by the state. While charges of public violence against 41 people involved in Take back the Commons were withdrawn, one person Mario Wanza remains under virtual house arrest with strict bail conditions. South Africa has a remarkable coercive state apparatus where just about anybody can be locked up without there being evidence of the likilihood of serious threat or danger.
In one notable incident a young gentlemen who merely raised his fist in a black power salute in the former Transkei was found guilty of “assault by threats”. Despite guarantees of poltical rights such as freedom of assembly in the constitution, the doctrine of immanent danger from a former era, remains under our common law, and as demonstrated by De Lille, can be quite effective in limited the possibility of political conflict by merely raising the notion of law and order in the public interest.