WATCH | 'You've been warned, disperse!' - Cape Town police get tough on tourism protesters

  • Police used stun grenades against protesting tourism and hospitality workers outside Parliament on Friday.
  • The staff at Truth Coffee cafe were hit with water cannons.
  • Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato says he is "appalled" by the footage.


Cape Town mayor Dan Plato has expressed outrage at police action against tourism industry protesters who were blasted by a water cannon during a peaceful protest on Friday.

A strong contingent of South African Police Service (SAPS) staff fired a water cannon to disperse several dozen tourism industry members in the city centre - holding aloft placards in protest at the lockdown regulations which is keeping much of the tourism industry closed for business. 

After the protest at Parliament was dispersed, protesters lined up in Roeland Street - but the water cannon truck and police troops soon arrived to tackle them again.

"No gatherings of any kind are allowed under disaster management act level 3 regulations," boomed an instructing police officer from a loudhailer.

"We have warned you previously. Remember this time you will face police arrest, because you are not adhering to the instructions of a police officer to disperse."

In Buitengracht Street, not far from Parliament, police fired the water cannon at patrons of the Truth Coffee cafe - sending outdoor furniture flying. 

Protesters holding placards aloft kept ahead of police - trying to stay out of the water cannon's forceful reach. But many were hit and drenched - including journalists with camera equipment.

'Unacceptable'

According to GroundUp, at least four protesters were arrested.

Plato said in response to the scenes: "I am appalled at video footage showing the aggressive conduct of the South African Police Service (SAPS) today as they used heavy handed tactics against peaceful hospitality industry protesters outside Parliament this morning.  

"It is unacceptable that a peaceful protest by business owners and employees fearing for the loss of their livelihoods, is met with water cannons and stun grenades. Reported claims from the SAPS members on the scene that 'protests are not allowed under lockdown' does not hold water as several protests have been allowed outside Parliament during lockdown without the use of such intimidation tactics.

READ | 'Unions are wagging the dog' - Western Cape opposed to school closures

"The hospitality and tourism sectors are vital to Cape Town's economy, but because of the national government regulations, they are facing complete financial ruin. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are in jeopardy, putting further strain on government resources, and limiting efforts to grow our economy," Plato said.

"I call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to give urgent attention to the legitimate concerns of our hospitality and tourism sectors. Various sensible proposals have been made by the representative bodies for these industries, and national government can no longer ignore their plight."

Hospitality industry protesters
Protesters took to Cape Town streets to raise awareness for the plight of the hospitality industry. (Murray Williams, News24)
Hospitality industry protesters
Protesters took to Cape Town streets to raise awareness for the plight of the hospitality industry. (Murray Williams, News24)
Hospitality industry protesters
Protesters took to Cape Town streets to raise awareness for the plight of the hospitality industry. (Murray Williams, News24)

'If you want to arrest anyone, arrest me'

On the volatile scene, DA chief whip in Parliament, Natasha Mazzone, said she would accept the protesters' petition - as this had not been accepted at Parliament. 

"We need to save these people's lives - they are not hurting anyone, they are not being a danger to anyone. Stop bombing them with water. Stop it!"

Interviewed by News24, she said: "I believe this group of peaceful protesters has a petition they would like to hand to Parliament. They were chased away from the Parliamentary entrance with water cannons. I am here to fetch their petition ... and I will hand it in to Parliament - and I ask the police to show some mercy on people who are protesting peacefully. There is no need for violence," Mazzone said.

"If you want to arrest anyone, arrest me! I am here peacefully protesting with these people."

Before the water cannon was fired, police personnel warned the small crowd with a loud-hailer that they were ordered to disperse, as the gathering was illegal.

'Social distancing'

A spokesperson for the #ServeUsPlease protest, Ashleigh Perremore on Friday said that participants adhered to all measures to ensure safety protocols were followed.

"The #ServeUsPlease movement participants adhered to all measures to ensure safety protocols were followed; everyone wore face masks, and maintained social distancing through the use of 1.5m ribbons between each person that indicated that distances were being kept. In addition, all groups were kept to a minimum size of 15 people."

She did however say the protest had not been given the green light, nor was it denied, after sending notice to city officials.

"The #ServeUsPlease movement notified both the Office of the President as well as the necessary city officials, however, we received no notification that the peaceful protest was not allowed.

"In the absence of a request refusal, we took this omission of refusal to mean that both the Office of the President as well as the City of Cape Town would allow a peaceful protest to happen."

Perremore claimed the police's use of stun grenades and water cannons was what caused the social distancing measures to collapse.

"At this point the #ServeUsPlease movement indicated to all participants that they should disperse."

They would continue to protest peacefully, she added.

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