‘When we create jobs for ourselves, they kill us’

2014-01-15 17:49

Street vendors in Tshwane have threatened to make the city ungovernable if four of their colleagues, who have been arrested for public violence, are not released.

About 400 street vendors packed the Tshwane City Hall for the memorial service of Foster Rivombo (20), a street trader who was allegedly shot by metro police last Thursday during a cleanup of the city’s streets.

Angry hawkers spoke fondly of their fallen comrade, who died after being shot twice after an altercation with police who wanted to remove him from the Bosman Taxi Rank where he sold vegetables.

The event was also attended by political organisations including the ANC Youth League, the Economic Freedom Fighters, Cope and the Workers and Socialist Party (Wasp).

Livingstone Mantanga, chairperson of the SA National Traders Retail Alliance, said it was time for voters to give Mayor Sputla Ramokgopa and the ruling ANC the “red card” and vote them out of power.

“The government has failed to create the five million jobs, but when we create jobs for ourselves, they kill us. What do you want us to do? This government is made up of capitalists and the City of Tshwane metro police were protecting the profits of the rich when they killed him,” said Mantanga.

He said former president Nelson Mandela’s death was in vain because the government he had left behind did not care about the poor.

“Now is the time to give them a red card because Mandela never fought only for the rich, he fought for the poor, black and white. Why should we continue supporting a government that doesn’t care about us? The metro officials act like God and treat us like servants. They don’t care about us,” said Mantanga, to rapturous applause.

Mourners regularly sang derogatory songs directed at Ramokgopa and President Jacob Zuma, and Tshwane mayoral committee member for sport, Nozipho Makeke, looked uncomfortable as she sat quietly, waiting for her turn to speak.

Makeke distanced the City of Tshwane from Rivombo’s death and described it as an “unexpected and indefensible” action by the police.

“While the metro police have a duty to enforce city bylaws it is not the policy of the ANC or the city or the government to coerce people by using weapons. At no stage do we have a policy to shoot at random and kill residents,” said Makeke.

She promised to engage with the street traders and find a solution to the issue of the city’s cleanup.

She apologised to Rivombo’s family and promised that the city would follow up on the case of murder that has been opened against the implicated officers.

Many speakers criticised the heavy-handedness of police in public disturbances and called on the government to intervene.

They spoke about the deaths of 44 mineworkers in Marikana, Andries Tatane in the Free State and recently two protesters in Brits who were believed to have died at the hands of police during a service delivery protest.

Sam Khasibe, chairperson of the SA Informal Traders Forum, said no one must fear voting against the ruling ANC, adding that if people employed by the government were prepared to shoot a man selling bananas “we must remove them”.

Khasibe called for the policemen responsible for Rivombo’s death to be arrested and the four hawkers arrested during the death of Rivombo last week to be released when they appear in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Friday on charges of public violence.

“It hurts to meet under these circumstances when we’ve tried to have meetings with Ramokgopa for months. We tried but failed and we now have to meet because someone is dead,” said Khasibe as Rivombo’s pictures hung at the front of the hall, flanked by a bouquet of flowers and two candles.

Liv Shange from Wasp said Rivombo’s death should touch every single South African who believes in “getting up and doing things for yourself”.

“This is not the government you fought for. We need our own government, otherwise our children will grow up struggling and live a life of struggle forever,” said Shange.

Golden Mathonsi, deputy secretary-general of the Cope Youth Movement, said dealing with Rivombo’s death was in the state’s hands.

“The truth must be told and the truth is that Rivombo’s murder was committed by the state. He died trying to make a better life for him and his family. The state failed to provide work for him and they killed him for fighting poverty,” said Mathonsi.

Mourners vowed to descend on the court on Friday.

The ANC Youth League promised to bring 8 000 people to support those behind bars.

Lesego Makhubela, secretary-general of the ANC Youth League in Tshwane, called on Ramokgopa to be “sensitive” to the needs of street traders and urged hawkers to continue demanding better treatment from the government.

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