Cape Town - The chaotic scenes that played out on Wednesday outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) offices in the CBD overshadowed Mayor Dan Plato’s opening speech at a full council meeting on Thursday.
The ANC lashed out at the mayor accusing the City’s law enforcement and metro police of intimidation.
“The process of our African brothers, sisters sitting in the office of the UN, the City police should be condemned of how they have forcefully removed mothers with children, the City must also understand the jurisdiction of a UN office, it must be respected and all processes should be followed to remove our African brothers in a humane manner.
"The City must take responsibility not to blame National Government Police on that issue,” said Lazola Gungxe from the ANC.
Plato responded: “I have visited those foreign nationals and engaged with them. And they are well aware that the City’s role is very limited in this. It is wrong for you to say that metro police and law enforcement is involved in this.”
Plato also called for Home Affairs and the UN High Commissioner to engage with the refugees.
“I want to appeal to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as well as the Department of Home Affairs to please engage with the foreign nationals who have been protesting over recent weeks. If it’s true that some of them want to leave South Africa, then please help them gracefully. Why must government be so slow to react?” he asked.
Thursday's violent clashes between police, law enforcement and refugees erupted after the refugees staged a sit-in at the UNHRC offices in Green Market square. The refugees were evicted following a court order by the owner of the building Waldorf Arcade.
Plato also raised his concerns about safety in the City.
“Safety has always been one of my key priorities and I began my current term as mayor with a proposal to increase our overall Safety budget, and this was approved. I have also continuously raised my concern about the levels of resourcing that the South African Police Service has in Cape Town, and a number of other crucial shortcomings in our criminal justice system,” he said.
Plato also addressed the recent protests by the taxi industry who blocked roads leading into the City and around the CBD earlier this month.
“We have laws in this city, laws that apply to everybody and we will not make exceptions for anyone, especially not those who take the lives of our residents into their hands every day. If your taxi is not in a roadworthy condition if you break the rules of the road, then we have no choice but to take action,” he said.
The taxi industry claims that they have been ill-treated by the City and want fines to be scrapped.
“You can try and carry out your criminal deeds but then you will simply end up in jail in addition to having your taxi impounded. So please, work with us, we are not trying to make life difficult for you, but we have a responsibility to protect our residents and ensure that everyone can get to work, school, and visit their friends and family safely. You provide a valuable service but we need to work together to ensure it is a safe, responsible and efficient service,” he said.