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Cape Town -
What started as a peaceful march in front of the Western Cape provincial legislature on Wednesday erupted into chaos when protesters looted stalls and vandalised property.
Premier Helen Zille’s office is considering taking legal action against the march’s “organiser”, ANC councillor Loyiso Nkohla.
“The DA will lay a charge of incitement to commit a crime against Nkohla in light of the inflammatory statements he made and the subsequent violence and looting that broke out in the CBD today,” a press statement read late on Wednesday afternoon, noting a previous newspaper report in which Nkohla apparently encouraged marchers to plunder stalls and shops.
The statement also cited a recent Constitutional Court ruling that organisers could be held liable for damages incurred by marchers: “The organisers of (yesterday’s) march should also be held responsible for the damage caused by looters.”
Nkohla has hit back, saying the march was self-organised by “people from informal settlements” and that the DA was “ignorant, arrogant and racist” for wanting to bring charges against him instead of entertaining the legitimate concerns of “houseless and landless” people.
He also said he would bring a defamation suit against the Daily Sun – the newspaper which quoted him as encouraging looting and violence.
By noon on Wednesday, hundreds of people had gathered outside the provincial legislature. With the arrival of new groups, which had travelled from informal settlements, the crowd swelled to over 3 000 people by 1pm.
Wale Street, between Adderley and Long streets, was closed. The City of Cape Town’s CCTV centre estimated that at least 6 000 protesters entered the city on Wednesday.
Leading the protest were Nkohla and former ANC councillor Andile Lili. They gained notoriety earlier this year when they were involved in protests which included dumping faeces in public. They are standing trial in the Bellville Magistrate’s Court for the faeces dumping.
Wednesday’s march was a follow-up to a protest held in the CBD on September 30, when a few hundred marched on the provincial legislature and handed a memorandum to Bonginkosi Madikizela, the province’s MEC for Human Settlements, accusing the DA-led provincial government of having “remained indifferent to the plight of thousands of informal settlement dwellers who are in desperate need of housing”.
Madikizela acknowledged that some of the marchers had legitimate concerns and he promised their complaints would receive his attention.
In September, Lili threatened that the protesters would return “in huge numbers” if a response was not received before the end of this month.
Madikizela’s office did not respond to queries from the Cape Argus on Wednesday.
Nkohla, speaking from the steps of the legislature, vowed over a loudspeaker that the protesters “would not move” until Zille addressed them.
A few dozen protesters broke away, ran up Long Street and stripped vendors’ stalls. Hundreds of looters ran amok in St George’s Mall. Police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets at some locations.