Acquitted poo protesters now take aim at city
Cape Town - Now that they have been acquitted, the “poo protesters” have turned their sights on the city.
On the steps of the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday – just moments after his not-guilty verdict – Andile Lili said he planned to sue the local and provincial governments for neglecting sanitation in the townships.
“They prosecuted the victims here and they lost,” he shouted, to a roar of cheering and applause. “Helen Zille and Patricia de Lille have seven days to publicly apologise. If they don’t we will sue them.”
The jovial atmosphere outside was a far cry from the quiet courtroom where Lili and his co-accused – Mzwethemba Gulwa, Thembela Mbanjwa, Yandani Kulati, Xolisa Ngwelazi, Yanga Mjingwana and Pam Nyakaza – awaited judgment.
While they joked in the dock, the tension was palpable when magistrate Jasthree Steyn took his seat.
The accused were among 186 protesters arrested at the Esplanade station in Woodstock in June last year. They were headed for the city, allegedly planning to dump faeces at the provincial legislature.
Charged with contravening the Environmental Health by-law, a guilty verdict would have meant fines and even prison for the Ses’Khona Human Rights Movement leadership.
But furrowed brows began to fade as Steyn dug into the State’s evidence. What emerged was a list of contradictions between statements made by police who couldn’t agree on any of the details.
Two of the officers, who were cross-examined during the trial, revealed they had even danced with the protesters.
Steyn labelled the case a “futile exercise” on behalf of the State which had failed to provide vital documentation or concrete evidence that the group was planning to unload buckets of faeces in the city.
After the seven were acquitted of all charges, supporters who had packed into the gallery began to applaud.
“Viva,” they shouted.
Speaking to the Cape Argus on Wednesday afternoon, Lili said now that he had “beaten” the city he could do it again.
How he will fund his new case against the city remains to be seen.
He said he could no longer afford the attorneys who had successfully defended him this time.
A lack of funding had previously led to the other pending cases against him being delayed until next month.
And his legal woes may not be over.
On Wednesday, the DA announced that its spokesman on human settlements, Makashule Gana, would lay criminal charges against several Ses’Khona and ANC leaders in Cape Town on Thursday.
The charges related to the illegal selling of plots on private land in Lwandle before Sanral’s evictions in the area. Affidavits would also be presented to the police documenting Ses’Khona’s alleged illegal diversion of food and blankets from the affected residents.
Lili and others are also still set to face charges relating to two poo protests outside the provincial legislature and the airport.
“We will find the money, but maybe we won’t need to if De Lille and Zille do the right thing and apologise.”
But mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said this was not going to happen. “They owe Cape Town residents an apology for their violent and criminal behaviour.”
He said the magistrate’s verdict was surprising. “We have a number of reservations about the way this case was handled, particularly since critical State evidence was not allowed to be submitted, including photos and other evidence. We expect that the State will appeal against the ruling.”