Politicians slam Western Cape town's 'dompas' system

2015-03-11 08:34
Gardener Tsepho Mahola shows his "green card". (Denvor de Wee, Netwerk24)

Gardener Tsepho Mahola shows his "green card". (Denvor de Wee, Netwerk24)

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Cape Town - A storm has broken out over the issuing of green identification cards for workers and job seekers in the Western Cape town of Worcester.

It emerged earlier this week that the Worcester SAPS and Community Policing Forum (CPF) introduced the cards bearing the photographs and personal details of the workers back in 2012 after a proposal by the neighbourhood watches of certain suburbs.

The cards have to be carried when workers, including gardeners and builders, enter affluent parts of the town. Workers who do not carry the cards are reportedly treated with suspicion by the CPF.

Combating crime

According to Netwerk24's Jason Felix and Romantha Botha, police and residents of Worcester maintain that the identification cards are a way of combating crime.

However, politicians have accused the town of racism, saying that the cards equate to the so-called "dompas" system of the apartheid era.

The station commander of the Worcester police, Brigadier Vuyani Mdibaza, said the system was anything but racist, and was introduced by the community. Police will not arrest people who do not have the cards and do not apply apartheid laws, he said, adding that the issue has now become political and he doesn't see anything wrong with the system.

The ANC condemned the cards as a violation of basic human rights. It said in a statement that the DA-run Breede Valley Municipality is "reintroducing the dompas system.... apartheid South Africa's most demeaning instrument of racial segregation, sought to ensure that the movement of black people was limited and that certain areas were to be protected as the sole reserves of white South Africans".

'Swart gevaar'

The explanation that it was for security is a reincarnation of the 'swart gevaar', the ANC said. "It is obvious that it is only black men looking for jobs who must carry the card and nobody else in the neighbourhood - sending a clear message that blacks are dangerous and not to be trusted unless vetted by the white man.  When it comes to the DA and the protection of white privilege, the more things change they more they stay the same. Despite their loud denials, proof is presented that where the DA governs every effort will be made to return us to apartheid."

However, the DA also condemned the green cards, and welcomed the Western Cape department of community safety’s move to pressure provincial police commissioner Arno Lamoer to take action.

"We support the call by the department for Commissioner Lamoer to put an immediate stop to the green card project, and to conduct a full investigation into the conduct of the local SAPS and Community Policing Forum (CPF) in Worcester," the party said.

Contravention of Constitution

"The issuing of these green cards by SAPS has all the hallmarks of the apartheid-era dompas system. The DA condemns the green card practice in the strongest terms as it is in direct contravention of the Constitution, which ensures and protects citizens’ right to the freedom of movement. This right should not be restricted by unlawful access control to different suburbs and areas in the name of fighting crime."

The green cards are not only discriminatory but also negatively affect employees and job-seekers who are unable to move freely to look for work, the DA added.

A gardener told Netwerk24 that he feels like a criminal, and only black men have the cards. People working in bigger cities do not need them, he said. Another gardener said he had the card but never carried it, and even his employer had dismissed it.

But a Worcester resident said the issue was blown out of proportion, and it was to ensure safety.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  cape town  |  racism

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