Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cape taking radical steps against protesters

Cape Town - As violent protests flared up again on Friday in Khayelitsha and Milnerton, the city announced it is exploring radical new strategies for quelling the wave of discontent.

Police arrested 30 protesters in Joe Slovo informal settlement on Thursday night and Friday morning. They will appear in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

On Thursday night the N2 was closed for three hours at Mew Way due to stone throwing from protesters.

Police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse crowds hurling rocks, glass bottles and rubbish at police and onto the road.

Govan Mbeki Drive in Khayelitsha was also closed. Police have not said how many people were arrested in Khayelitsha. Residents of the Khayelitsha BM Section tipped four portable toilets over the concrete fence and had been dragging them on to the highway’s inbound lane before police stopped them.

On Friday morning sections of Omuramba Road, Racecourse Road and Koeberg Road in Milnerton was closed as about 150 protesters burned tyres in the roads and threw rocks.

“The clashes between police and protesters are becoming more violent,” said JP Smith, Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security.

“Protesters are not merely throwing faeces anymore, a lot of stones are being thrown. It is only a matter of time before someone gets killed. We cannot carry on like this - responding to protests as they flare up and driving protesters away with force. A radically new approach is needed.”

At a portfolio meeting on Friday, Smith was to propose a new strategy which would see photographers accompanying police responding to protests. They would photograph the ringleaders and Smith hopes to put up posters in informal settlements - identifying the main suspects and offering rewards for information leading to arrests. This new strategy will be “intelligence driven” and could make use of informants and spies in the ranks of protesting residents.

“We have reports indicating that these protests are being politically motivated. We do not want people referring to them as ‘service delivery’ protests anymore - they are not. Increasingly we find that the ‘poor service delivery’ justification for these protests is paper thin,” Smith said, directing the Cape Argus to Premier Helen Zille’s office when asked for access to the reports.

But Smith has been slammed by the Social Justice Coalition (SJC) for down-playing the lack of houses, sanitation and services in informal settlements as driving factors in many of these protests.

“It should be expected this time of year. We often see these flare-ups after periods of heavy rain and flooding in informal settlements. There is a well documented lack of housing in Cape Town and the city often fails in its aid and support for communities that are flooded,” said the SJC’s Axolile Notywala.

However, he acknowledged that there may be a subversive political element involved in some protests ahead of general elections next year.

Notywala said that Smith’s suggestion of putting up posters and asking residents to rat on trouble makers would only foster further antagonism between residents and authorities.

Instead, he said, city officials needed to link with ward councillors - many of whom are ANC members, and “constructively” engage about grievances as they arise.

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