Crowds keep cops busy with simultaneous protests

2014-02-28 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Protesters played a cat-and-mouse game with police as simultaneous protests were staged in central Cape Town yesterday.

About 1 000 protesters gathered from eight areas across the metropolis in the CBD to protest for land and housing, led by the Ses’khona People’s Rights Movement.

Police officers were informed about the planned protests but were caught flat-footed by the flash mob-style protests. Officers on motorbikes and quad bikes, however, quickly matched the protestors for speed and issued public warnings that the protests “will be stopped if they continue”.

The protesters scattered as police lobbed three shock grenades at them.

Spokesperson for the Ses’khona movement Andile Madondile said the protest was not staged for political gain but because people had needs.

“We are not here for violence. We are here for homes and land,” he said.

“We are not looking for anyone’s election T-shirts or food parcels, we want roofs over our heads.”

After scattering, the protesters quickly regrouped.

Police officers in riot control vehicles warned them on loud hailers that they “will not talk twice” and told the protesters to go back to the railway stations and their homes.

Anna Williams (64), a pensioner from Mitchells Plain, yelled back, “We don’t have homes.” She said the circumstances in which they live are horrendous.

“We don’t have toilets and our asbestos roofs are busy rotting and giving us tuberculosis. No one can stay healthy there and we can also not eat, because our suburbs smell of excrement.”

Former ANC members Loyiso Nko­hla and Andile Lili, who were suspended by the party for their involvement in throwing bags of excrement, were also at yesterday’s protests, but they were stopped at the Cape Town railway station and prevented from throwing their weight behind the crowd.

Although the protests were largely peaceful, 12 men were arrested yesterday.

They included Sithembele Majova, a leader of the Ses’khona movement who had allegedly arranged the protest. He was cuffed and led away.

Provincial police spokesperson Captain Frederick van Wyk said officers had used shock grenades and a water cannon to disperse the protesters. They also ensured that no shops or stalls were looted.

He said the arrested men would soon appear in a magistrate’s court on charges of violating the Gatherings Act 205 of 1993.

Western Cape Premier Helen Zille said the protest showed a very real possibility of turning violent and the organisers had lied about their links to the suspended ANC members Lili and Nkohla, which was why the protest was illegal.

Zille said intelligence sources had footage of the two men threatening to use violence.

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