Cape Town activists shut roads in anti-poverty protest

25 September 2018 - 06:58
By Dave Chambers
Residents of Hanover Park block Hanover Park Avenue at the start of a
Image: Esa Alexander Residents of Hanover Park block Hanover Park Avenue at the start of a "total shutdown" in Cape Town.

Working class activists closed numerous roads on the Cape Flats at the start of a “total shutdown” of the city on Tuesday.

There were reports of teargas being fired by the SA Police Service‚ and the City of Cape Town said the provincial joint operations centre had received information that live ammunition had been fired in Kensington.

Roads closed shortly after the protests began at 5am included Ottery Road and Voortrekker Road. Bellville taxi rank was also reportedly closed. Proclaiming that nothing has changed for them since the fall of apartheid‚ the activists said they aimed to close as many of the city’s key roads as possible.

Organiser Henriette Abrahams‚ from Bonteheuwel‚ said protesters would close roads leading to the N2‚ M5 and M3.

The protests are due to end at 10am. Abrahams insisted the protests would be peaceful. “We just need the government to hear us ... all tiers of government‚” she said.

Two weeks ago‚ protesters who blockaded roads in the Cape Flats suburb of Bishop Lavis were greeted by riot police‚ and Abrahams said she expected the same to happen on Tuesday. “But we are not looking for confrontation. We are looking simply to disrupt‚” she said.

“We cannot have life continuing as normal while people are dying on a daily basis.” A statement from a group called the Western Cape Total Shutdown Communities said working class people continued to live in abject poverty and faced unprecedented levels of unemployment and violence.

“We cannot afford food and basic necessities such as water‚ electricity and transport‚ and added to this we live in overcrowded communities because of a lack of decent housing‚” said the statement.

“Further to this‚ the high levels of corruption in the public and private sector are exacerbating the poor’s plight‚ as resources which are meant to improve the lives of the poor are being stolen by thugs in suits and boardrooms‚ leaving the poor to die of hunger and violence.

“Our communities are saying enough is enough. We are taking back our power and mobilising to govern ourselves‚ as those meant to serve on our behalf have proven themselves untrustworthy and unaccountable to us‚ the working class.” Abrahams and her fellow organisers‚ Gatto Wanza from Manenberg and Yaseen Johaar from Hanover Park‚ said the movement was non-partisan‚ non-sectarian‚ and “grounded in democratic grassroots practices and processes”.

They added: “Our movement aims to mobilise and unite our working class communities and build solidarity for our cause‚ which is fighting violence‚ poverty‚ inequality‚ racism and neo-liberalism by creating a better‚ safer‚ healthier and equal society.”

Abrahams said future action by the movement would depend on how different tiers of government responded to Tuesday’s protest. JP Smith‚ the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security‚ said metro police would work with the SA Police Service to deal with any disruption caused by the protests.

“The problem is that this protest has not applied for a permit in terms of the national Regulation of Gatherings Act. This puts it in automatic conflict with SAPS‚” he said.