Cape Town - Chaos erupted in the city centre earlier on Thursday when hundreds of protesters marched through the CBD, chased by police officers.
Police officers aggressively dispersed the crowd and herded marchers back to the train station while revving their motorbikes and quad bikes. Some of them also threw stun grenades.
The march was organised by the Ses’khona People’s Movement, under the same leadership that wreaked havoc in a city protest last year.
A woman who was bumped by a police bike as she tried to run away said: “One came with a scooter and hit me, I couldn’t run because I’m too old, so I stood there. This is abuse.”
Mavis Mbangwa said the protestors had done nothing wrong. “We were going with our complaints to the legislature. We want land and proper sanitation – not this potta-potta (bucket toilets).”
Mbangwa was one of a group of women who were standing and sitting in St George’s Mall when around five police officers mounted on bikes roared through the pedestrian area. Police shouted and revved their engines hot on the heels of the terrorised protestors who were forced to run or be hit by the vehicles.
They were herded back to Cape Town station and instructed to get on trains.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk spoke from the train station: “ We’re going to get these people back on the train now. There’s a couple hundred down here.”
Van Wyk said it was a joint operation with other law enforcement bodies.
“They are coming from different areas,” he said. “A lot have been taken off the train at Esplanade and Woodstock.”
He said that at least one person was arrested, although he was not sure of the total tally.
Van Wyk had no comment on the aggressive tactics used to usher people out of the city.
Vuyokazi Mancincana, a Khayelitsha resident and one of the protest organisers, said they applied for a permit in January but only received a response denying the permit last week Friday. “Our lawyers didn’t have time to appeal, so we decided to come anyway,” she said.
They hoped to pressure provincial government into making land, housing and sanitation available for residents of informal settlements in Cape Town.
“They don’t want us [to protest] in town; they want us to stay in the township and wreak havoc there,” Mancincana said. “But we are not going to give up at all.”