Outrage over ‘dompas’ cards for workers in Worcester

2015-03-11 00:00

WORCESTER — While politicians are spitting fire over a so-called “dompas system” for garden workers in this Western Cape town, the police and ­residents maintain they are only trying to prevent crime.

A political bomb has exploded over the issuing of green identity cards for people seeking day work, like gardening and building, in the wealthy suburbs of the Boland town.

ANC national spokesperson Zizi Kodwa warned yesterday against what he termed a “dompas system”.

“The apartheid regime’s dompas system was the worst form of racism. Gardeners are being forced to carry the green cards if they want to look for work.

“The residents and police claim the system is a security measure. It’s clear that only black and coloured people are looking for that kind of work … no matter what whites in Worcester try to say,” he said.

The police station has been issuing the cards since 2012, prompted by the community policing forums in Panorama, Meiringspark and Roux Park.

Station commander Brigadier Vuyani Mdibaza told sister paper Die Burger yesterday the system is not racist.

“It is a system proposed by the community. We don’t arrest people who don’t have green cards. We won’t apply apartheid laws. The whole thing is being politicised. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it,” he said.

However, gardener Tsepho Mahola said: “I feel like a criminal, because only blacks have to get the cards. People who do gardening and other day work in other towns don’t need to get these cards.

“I’ve been working in gardens for many years. These cards feel wrong to me,” said Mahola.

Denzil Charlies, another gardener, said his employers have rejected the green card system. “I have a card, but I don’t carry it. I do piece work for ­several residents.”

Johan Coetzee, a resident of ­Panorama, said: “It is not a dompas ­system. It is a way to assure our safety. The whole issue is being taken out of context.”

The Western Cape Community Safety Department does not support the system.

MEC Dan Plato said it is completely unacceptable.

“I have spoken about it to [provincial police commissioner] Lieutenant-General Arno Lamoer. He must urgently investigate to find out where the system came from and who okayed it.”

The existence of the cards was reported on this week by IOL, and is now the subject of a petition by international activist network Avaaz, which is calling for pressure on Western Cape ­Premier Helen Zille “to conduct a thorough investigation that sends a clear message: these racist cards have no place in modern South Africa”.

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