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Cape Town - A self-proclaimed agitator has backed up the City of Cape Town’s claim that just a small group of people is behind recent protests around the city.
But he has warned that residents who co-operate with authorities’ new plans to pay for information on ringleaders run the risk of being regarded as “traitors”.
The Khayelitsha man, 23, a second-year law student at the University of the Western Cape, spoke to the Cape Argus on condition of anonymity, because of his frequent involvement in faeces-dumping and illegal blockades of the N2. He has been actively involved in protests since 2010, been arrested twice and shot with rubber bullets “dozens” of times.
“I want to challenge the stereotype that protesters are only desperate, unemployed people with no hope. I am a student, I live in a nice residence and have plenty of food to eat.
“Yet I return to Khayelitsha because I care about my community and I don’t want to see them being abused by the government.”
He said he rose with other protesters at 1am, blocked the N2 with burning tyres and dumped faeces at 4am, battled with police and still made it to morning lectures.
He said that a group of about 15 activists across a range of informal settlements were able to mobilise residents and co-ordinate protests in areas such Khayelitsha’s BM section, Barcelona, Europe, Kanana, Kosovo and as far afield as Dunoon. The existing discontent in these communities made it easy to rally people, he said. The cellular chat application WhatsApp is the group’s main form of communication among themselves.
Last week, JP Smith, mayoral committee member for Safety and Security, urged the media to stop referring to the protests as being related to “service delivery”.
Smith said there was increasing evidence that a “political element” underpinned these protests. Smith said the evidence was in the possession of Premier Helen Zille.
Protests had become more frequent and violent, with increased reports of rock throwing on the N2. A new “intelligence-driven” strategy was needed, he said.
Smith said prolonged investigations, photographing culprits and offering rewards for information that led to arrests were being considered.
On Wednesday, he will brief the media on damage to city property from recent protests.
Responding, the protester said that, although he was an active member of the ANC Youth League, his involvement in the protests had nothing to do with “party politics”.
“(They) are directed at the provincial government and its failure to provide proper services for people in informal settlements.
“We do not dump faeces at the offices of the DA, we go straight to provincial legislature. If the ANC takes power in the Western Cape and nothing changes, these protests will continue. In fact, they will intensify. This is a struggle of poor people who are subjected daily to conditions unfit for humans.”
Many of the main organisers were not affiliated along party political lines, he said.
In Khayelitsha, the Cape Argus spoke to another man, 37, who said he had been involved in dozens of service delivery protests in Site C over the past few years. He too professed to be an organiser without a party political mandate. He was a member of the ANC, but noted that many of the protests were directed at ANC ward councillors who failed to respond to community grievances.
“When I was younger we would stone buses and trucks, just as the youngsters are doing today. Now, I see it as my duty to teach them the ways of protesting without putting other people in danger. We do not want to see innocent people hurt.”
Both activists agreed that when “mob mentality” took over and at times when police fired rubber bullets there was “uncontrollable” violence, looting and vandalism.