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A storm has erupted after protest action at Rondebosch Common, with organisers planning to lodge a complaint with the SA Human Rights Commission, claiming the city’s show of force was “overkill” and “illegal”.
About 40 protesters, including chief organiser Mario Wanza, were arrested during a demonstration by campaigners who had not obtained permission to protest. Police, who outnumbered protesters, sprayed blue dye on the crowd to disperse them on Friday.
Organisers said Wanza remained behind bars at Manenberg police station over the weekend ahead of his court appearance in Athlone on Monday. Other protesters were released and are to appear in court on Monday.
Police would not confirm or comment on Wanza’s incarceration but defended the use of force.
The City of Cape Town said the actions on Friday were the police’s decision and responsibility. Speaking on behalf of mayor Patricia De Lille, mayoral committee member Grant Pascoe said arrests were not carried out on her instructions.
“Our guys were there as back-up. It’s difficult to say why SAPS reacted the way they did. But in this instance Wanza failed to meet the requirements of the Gatherings Act. But I want to categorically state that (De Lille) said our law enforcement guys must not act heavy-handedly. (The) mayor said ‘no physicality’,” said Pascoe.
The defiant group plans a second week of protest action, with a “renaming” of the open space this weekend.
Occupy Rondebosch Common claims to have the backing of the SA Council of Churches, Cosatu, the SA NGO Coalition and the Institute for the Restoration of Aborigines of SA.
Organisers are reprinting UDF banners in a bid to revive the mass anti-apartheid organisation of the 1980s.
On Sunday, one of the organisers, Richard October, accused De Lille of having a hand in Wanza’s incarceration and for “personalising” the campaign.
Saying the group would approach the HRC on Monday, October said: “One person is still under arrest and that’s (Wanza). From what we understand it is De Lille who is personalising this matter and making it about Wanza.”
October said the SAPS and metro police contingent and the arrests were “overkill”.
De Lille singled out Wanza during her speech at last week’s council meeting and dedicated a large part of her weekly newsletter to him, branding him and his supporters “agents of destruction”.
De Lille wrote that occupations, illegal actions and invasions were all “side-paths. But they lead nowhere. All that remains at the end of these short diversions is more pain, suffering, conflict and violence. And when we descend there, we will forget where we were going, forever.”
SAPS spokesman Andre Traut told the Cape Times: “The march was illegal. They had no permission and the South African police cannot tolerate lawlessness.”
He said 26 females and 14 males were arrested.
“They did not adhere to the instruction to disperse and that’s why they were arrested,” said Traut, who refused to disclose how many police were at the scene. Weekend reports stated that there were “hundreds” of police officers and six Casspirs.
Jared Sacks of Communities for Change claimed that police acted in contravention of the Gatherings Act.
“We will come back to the common next Sunday for a renaming ceremony and we will occupy District Six and golf courses,” Sacks said, adding that they didn’t need permission to conduct a renaming ceremony on open space.
Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said there would be “war” on the common. “Police stopped people at many points and some from boarding trains. But Cosatu filed an application on Friday for a protest on the common on Saturday.” Organisers would call on “all white communities to join us”.
SAHRC spokesman Vincent Moaga could not be reached for comment. - Cape Times