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Cape Town - The government has condemned a protest that turned violent in central Cape Town, saying damage to property and looting during protests will not be tolerated.
“Whilst every citizen has the constitutional right to protest, it must be done within the ambit of the law and not infringe the rights of others,” Government Communication and Information System acting CEO Phumla Williams said on Thursday.
“The implications of such criminal behaviour have a ripple effect on the lives of the victims,” she said.
A group of about 3500 people took part in what was believed to be a service delivery protest on Wednesday. Some protesters looted shops and vendors' stalls, and damaged property.
On Thursday morning, Western Cape police said two men had been arrested in connection with the protest and charged with possession of stolen property and malicious damage to property.
Lt-Col Andre Traut said seven cases, including public violence and theft, were opened.
“The operational deployments of the SA Police Service were adequate to deal with the situation under the given circumstances as we have good reason to believe that our tactics yesterday ensured that the situation was kept under control and prevented further chaos,” he said.
Williams said many families depended on the income they received from informal trading.
“Even small, informal traders contribute immensely to improving the country's economic goals. Criminal acts of this nature create an added burden to attempts to alleviate unemployment figures,” she said.
Williams urged people to use the platforms available to them to communicate with the government.
Earlier, the SA Communist Party said the media's focus on the looting had diverted attention away from the provincial government's failure to deliver services.
“We believe the march was peaceful until it became clear to our people that the Democratic Alliance government was not interested in hearing their demands,” SACP Brian Bunting district secretary Benson Ngqentsu said.
“Not a single media house has reported that our people were left for more than five hours without being attended by 1/8premier 3/8 Helen Zille and her cohorts.”
Mayor Patricia de Lille alleged that the protest was organised by African National Congress councillor Loyiso Nkohla and expelled councillor Andile Lili in an effort to make the city and province ungovernable.
She said the city had previously submitted evidence to the police linking them to violent protests.
“I extend my empathy to the vendors and shop owners whose businesses were looted during the despicable anarchy that prevailed in the central business district”, she said.
“Street vendors are an integral part of our local economy. They work hard under difficult economic times to grow their businesses.”
She encouraged those affected to press charges against the organisers of the protest.
The city would provide CCTV footage to help identify the perpetrators.
“Nobody is above the law... the organisers of yesterday’s 1/8Wednesday 3/8 demonstration must be held legally liable for the looting and destruction of private property,” she said.