Tuesday 28 May

STATEMENT: South Africa is Ferguson; Ferguson is South Africa

Johannesburg, 27 November 2014 – The below organisations stand in solidarity with the family and loved ones of Michael Brown and those bereaved, angered and in danger in Ferguson and across the United States. The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson and the reported mishandling of the prosecution of his killer, Officer Darren Wilson, are the most recent in a history of failures of the legal system to do justice when police kill black people. It is a pain we know all too well in South Africa.

In the words of US civil rights leader Rev Dr William J. Barber, II, President of the North Carolina National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and leader of the Moral Monday Movement, “this non-indictment against Officer Wilson is an indictment against a system that is unwilling to address the racial and discriminatory flaws that still exist in our system.”

Our struggle to overthrow apartheid and our ongoing struggle for racial justice in South Africa share two themes in common with the struggle in Ferguson: an ongoing disregard for the lives of black people that leads to unaccountable violence against them and a justified rage at a criminal system that fails to achieve justice. These themes run through the massacre at Marikana, the shooting of Andries Tatane in Ficksburg in the Free State, as well as many other recent incidents in South Africa and the United States.

During our revolution, the United States government disregarded mass movements, in the United States and around the globe, against apartheid and supported the apartheid state. We call on the US government to respond to the current mass protests differently. We join many in calling upon the US Department of Justice to be urgent and rigorous in its investigation of Michael Brown’s death and of the Ferguson police department and to use its powers to challenge police violence across the United States.

Some may ask why South Africans of conscience should be concerned with the activities emerging in Ferguson, Missouri and other parts of the US. Likewise, we may ask why people of conscience in the United States should be concerned with injustices against South Africa’s oppressed majority. The answer is that white supremacy and political, criminal and economic systems of oppression are international weapons of mass destruction. It is no coincidence that states respond to protests of oppressed people with violence in South Africa and Ferguson. In Palestine and Mexico. In Hong Kong and Turkey. In China and Russia. We must stand in solidarity when they do so.

Dr Martin Luther King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” As we continue our fight for justice and human rights in South Africa, we gain inspiration knowing that the inverse is also true: justice anywhere is a threat to injustice everywhere!

The fight for justice in Ferguson and across the US is at a critical juncture. In this historic moment we are inspired to see the thousands of people — of all colours, ages, faiths and backgrounds — organise in support of equality and justice. We borrow the rally cry of South African trade unions in our message to those in the United States: “organize or starve!” As you do so, we stand with you.

Viva the memory of Michael Brown! Long live the memory of Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Rekia Boyd, the slain of Marikana and all victims of state violence! Hands up don’t shoot! Black lives matter! Amandla!

The following organisations support this statement:

  • Treatment Action Campaign
  • Sonke Gender Justice
  • Awethu!
  • Lawyers for Human Rights
  • Bishop Paul Verryn, Central Methodist Mission
  • Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria
  • Centre for the Study of AIDS, University of Pretoria
  • Concerned Specialists of the Port Elizabeth Health Complex Association
  • Eastern Cape Health Crisis Action Coalition
  • Gender Links
  • Gun Free South Africa
  • Muslim Youth Movement
  • Nyangezizwe
  • People Opposing Women Abuse
  • People’s Health Movement
  • Rural Health Advocacy Project
  • Rural Rehabilitation South Africa
  • Sharon Ekambaram
  • South Africa Care Workers Forum
  • Students for Law and Social Justice
  • World AIDS Campaign International


John Stephens, SECTION27, stephens@section27.org.za, 073 077 5779

Anele Yawa, Treatment Action Campaign, anele.yawa@mail.tac.org.za, 079 328 1215

1 Comment

Kelly · November 27, 2014 at 6:08 pm


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