This past week, the city centre saw a protest to ostensibly raise concerns about service delivery in the province. But like many such protests of recent times, the action seemed a thinly veiled attempt to make the city ‘ungovernable’ ahead of next year’s election and provided an excuse for looting and disruption.
There is evidence that suggests that these protests were politically motivated. ANC Councillor, Loyisa Nkohla, was quoted in the media as saying, ‘You will not have to go hungry because there are so many places that you can loot in the CBD. The police can’t arrest us all because there will be too many of us.’
This after Councillor Nkohla had skipped the Council meeting claiming he was ‘sick’.
ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman blamed the protest and looting on the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). This, after evidence of ANC councillors’ involvement. Around the same time, Mr Fransman himself presided over the political abuse of a State function in Saldanha in an attempt to embarrass Premier Helen Zille.
Disruptions & theft paint a grim picture
Last week, hundreds of law-abiding residents were disrupted trying to get home and many innocent vendors had their goods stolen. This kind of cowardly action speaks volumes of the values and principles of those involved. We quite simply have to build a city characterised by inclusion; that means respect for each other’s rights and differing viewpoints. Thug-like behaviour of any kind can never be an accepted part of our democracy. Indeed, it is an abuse of our history and the lived reality of many of our people.
Some of our communities face serious challenges. Many of them relate to historical patterns of structural inequality. Some of them concern a past dominated by a lack of opportunities. Still more are the consequence of social and economic disconnection.
In as much as these are universal problems that are not unique to our country, our particular history provides additional complications. Whatever the details may be, these problems exist. They are very real issues that combine to form a challenging mix of circumstances for communities and individuals to face.
As a city working towards unity in our diversity, they affect us all. The opportunity city; the safe city; the caring city; the inclusive city; and the well-run city. These are the five pillars upon which we are building the future – for the whole of Cape Town.
Guided by these principles, we allocate resources for the kind of social redress that can provide a more lasting reconciliation. We try to interrogate the social problems holding communities back. But we must also interrogate all factors that combine to undermine communities.
I understand the right to protest. I also understand the right to speak truth to power and make your case, no matter how difficult that might seem. I fought for those rights and I have used them myself when taking on the power of the State in exposing the corruption of the arms deal.
Infringing on the rights of others
But the right to protest and make your opinion known stops when it infringes on the rights of other people. It stops when your fellow citizens feel too intimidated to express their own grievances. It stops when the abuse of the right to protest causes it to lose its social power.
Amongst legitimate service delivery protests, amidst communities searching for their voices, there are those protests used to advance political agendas, to destabilise the city. This is not a conspiracy theory. It is the real frustration of a government dealing with those individuals who would destabilise our society because they have no faith that they can win with the ballot box and so must resort to violence.
I know the value of resistance and of fighting for what is right. I did so for decades. And because I am a democrat and always have been, I resent the use of such brutal tactics to fulfil a political agenda.
We, of course, cannot be naïve and think that there is no political posturing between elections. As politicians and the public know, there is often something like the ‘constant campaign’ going on to try and sway the opinion of voters. That is right and good in a democratic system.
What is not right and good is realising that your reputation has been so out-stripped by others in terms of delivery and governance, that your only recourse is diverting public attention to manufactured ‘protests’, attempting to under-cut the impression of consistent delivery and diverting resources away from government strategies.
It is precisely the same kind of diversionary tactics that the ANC has used in relation to the MyCiTi N2 express service which, once completed, will link Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain to the CBD.
The ANC is desperate for this project to not be a success and therefore they have become inconsistent in their attitude towards it.
In the one breath they profess to support the roll-out of the service, yet in reality they are seeking to undermine the process and have worked to fuel fear and mistrust amongst the taxi owner stakeholders.
They have refused presentations on the programme to be given in Subcouncils under their control and they have threatened to not allow the service unless taxi owners receive the bus manufacturing and infrastructure contracts – in complete violation of nationally legislated tender processes. They have even gone so far as to write to national government in an apparent attempt to undermine funding for the project.
We, however, will not be deterred. We have made enormous progress in securing a truly inclusive agreement with all stakeholders, which will help secure the future viability of this critical service.
To address these protests, we must fix problems where they exist. But we must also find out where they are being deliberately created.
The City of Cape Town condemns the looting of vendors’ stalls and shops following yesterday’s demonstration allegedly organised by former ANC councillor, Andile Lili, and current ANC councillor, Loyiso Nkohla. These individuals have been behind a series of violent protests in Cape Town as part of their concerted efforts to make the city and province ‘ungovernable’.
The City has previously submitted evidence to the South African Police Service linking these individuals to violent protests. I encourage all of those whose businesses were looted or who had their properties vandalised during last week’s disruption to press individual charges against the organisers of the demonstration. The City of Cape Town will assist with the provision of CCTV footage to help identify the perpetrators.
Nobody is above the law. The expression of our constitutional rights should not be used as a tool to launch illegal activities. The organisers of last week’s demonstration must be held legally liable for the looting and destruction of private property.
When the next election comes around, voters would do well to remember that this government has tried to build a better city for all of us to live in. Others will have been seen to care more about using the poor as weapons and burning this city instead of respecting the democratic will of the majority.
Photo source: Africa Check