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Cape Town - Western Cape MEC for Community Safety Dan Plato has called on unions and the police to educate themselves on the new Dangerous Weapons Act.
This comes after a number of violent attacks by striking construction workers on people and labourers deemed to be undermining their strike by going to work.
Plato said he had received many phone calls and SMSes about assaults with knobkieries and batons, all associated with the strike.
Last week the Cape Argus published stills from CCTV footage showing a man being hit with a knobkierie outside a petrol station near the R300.
“I have been informed by members of the public that in some cases those participating in strike action have been brandishing items considered to be dangerous weapons,” Plato said on Sunday.
“This is now against the law. I strongly urge citizens to be aware that carrying dangerous weapons in public is illegal and any person found doing so is liable to a sentence of up to three years’ imprisonment.”
The legislation was signed into force by President Jacob Zuma in July. It defines a “dangerous weapon” as “any object, other than a firearm, capable of causing death or inflicting serious bodily harm, if it were used for an unlawful purpose”.
Last week police issued a statement asking people not to join illegal gatherings. Failing this, police warned people against carrying dangerous weapons during illegal marches.
Plato said some police officers were ignorant about the new law. On numerous occasions last week, Cape Argus reporters saw striking National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members brandishing sticks, knobkieries and batons, without police arresting them.
NUM national spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said there was ignorance of the law among strikers and police. “We do not endorse our members carrying weapons.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said circumstances were taken into consideration when police enforced the act.
“People are not merely arrested for being armed in some way. Discretion is applied. People engaged in a violent protest and armed with knives, for example, will be subjected to the act, and also someone who is armed and found late at night in an area known for high violent crime levels.”
The strike continues on Monday. There has been no agreement between the South African Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors and the NUM.