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We still use the ‘Dompas’

Published Mar 7, 2015


Cape Town - The dompas system seems to be alive and well in South Africa.

Workers in Worcester are being forced to apply for a “green card” which gives them access to upmarket neighbourhoods in the Boland town.

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The system was introduced by the town’s community policing forum in June 2014. But some residents say the identity system is nothing but an evil apartheid relic making a comeback.

During apartheid, black people were forced to carry a “dompas” while travelling outside of their homelands or face being arrested.

The Pass Laws system was only abolished in 1986. During its 34-year existence, more than 8 million black men and women were jailed.

The new modern-day card gives domestic workers and gardeners access to posh areas like Meiringspark, Roux Park and Panorama.

Gardener Norman Jooste says he will be applying for a card soon to make his life easier.

Norman tells the Daily Voice: “Most gardeners want a card because residents don’t trust you if you don’t have one.

“I haven’t been asked by police for a green card, but where I went to ask by white people for work, they asked for it and if you don’t have it, they call the police.

“If you tell the police you do work in the area, they will go to your employer to confirm it.

“Those who don’t work in the area are asked to leave.”

An outraged Rodney Visagie, a community leader and former Community Policing Forum member (CPF), has slammed the system, saying it violates poor people’s human rights.

“It might be a safety measure [for the rich] but it shouldn’t interfere with people’s freedom,” he says.

“Those are municipal areas, not a security complex. It reminds me of the dompas system.”

But a police sector commander in Worcester says he has no problem with it. Sergeant Julian Plaatjies says the green card cannot be compared to a dompas, and that the cards are given to people who work or want to work in certain neighbourhoods, after a spike in break-ins and thefts.

“With the dompas system, people were arrested if they didn’t have the pass, but nothing of that sort happens here,” claims Plaatjies.

“People move around freely and we won’t ask them to produce a green card if we see them in the area.

“Initially it was only for gardeners but people have approached us to extend it to domestic workers and to then call it a pink card.

“We know of several cases where people got jobs simply because they had a green card,” says Plaatjies.

If a gardener is looking for an odd job, all he has to do is produce his card at the door, and the huismense will immediately know he is trustworthy.

While the Daily Voice spoke to Plaatjies, a man entered the office wanting to apply for the green card.

Asked why he is applying, Eric Molhakolo, 42, said: “My friend has one so I also want one because it will help me to get work.

“People don’t trust strangers easily which makes it hard to get work, but if you have this card people will know you are a good worker.”

Plaatjies says in a case such as Eric’s, he will contact his current and former employers to verify information.

“But normally the employer contacts us with the worker’s details, we check that the applicant has no pending criminal cases relating to our priority crimes and then process all the details,” explains Plaatjies.

But he insists that they do not discriminate against those with a criminal record.

Pieter Adams, the proud owner of a green card, says people who criticise the system don’t know how it works: “It’s not a dompas... it serves as a reference for me if I have to look for other work.

“I wasn’t forced to get a card, I did it out of my own free will.”

Hentey Pople, a Riebeeck Park resident, says if the aim of the system is to combat crime, it is a good thing.

He says: “But you cannot control people’s movements. If that’s the case they have to put up a gate and fence like a security complex.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Community Safety has launched an investigation into the practice.

“If the CPF has indeed launched such a programme, they will be in violation of Section 21 of the constitution which protects the freedom of movement and must put an immediate stop to this,” says spokesman Ewald Botha.

Daily Voice

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