When people from Kraaifontein’s Nkdandla and other informal settlements in Cape Town called on the mayor to ease their plight, they were met with riot police and strong-arm tactics, says a civil-rights activist who was arrested at the protest.
SAPS riot police seized general secretary of the Social Justice Coalition, Axolile Notywala, 29, during the protest by more than 200 people at the Cape Town Civic Centre on Thursday, January 31.
The protest blocked all entrances to the civic centre and disrupted the first council meeting of the year.
The protesters came from Nkandla in Kraaifontein, Ses’Khona in Philippi East, Island in Khayelitsha and Qandu-Qandu in Khayelitsha. They wanted mayor Dan Plato to leave the meeting and speak to them about poor living conditions in their communities.
Mr Notywala, who is on committee representing Nkandla, is due to appear in court on Wednesday February 6 after being arrested under the Regulation of Gatherings Act – the same apartheid-era piece of legislation the Social Justice Coalition scored a victory against last year, when the Constitutional Court supported an earlier Western Cape High Court ruling that a section of the act was unconstitutional and invalid.
Section 12 (1) (a) made it a crime to convene a gathering of more than 15 people without first notifying the municipality.
The SJC had gone to court after several of its members had been charged with contravening the act during a peaceful protest at the civic centre in 2013.
Now it seems the police are intent on using the same section of that act, albeit different parts of it, to prosecute Mr Notywala.
He has vowed to lay a police-brutality complaint with the Independent Police Investigative Directorate on the day he appears in court.
He says the protest at the civic centre was peaceful until the riot police arrived and fired a stun grenade.
“I was part of the peaceful protest where we sang and danced at the entrance of the civic centre,” said Mr Notywala. “Police saw us there and they pointed their guns to the crowd. This upset me, and I approached them.”
He said he had walked up to the stairs to face the police, asking them “why they are ready for battle”?
“The protesters had no intention of being violent, but a stun grenade was thrown at them,” said Mr Notywala.
He said he had turned around to see people – including the elderly – running, and when he had asked the police why they were hurting the protesters, he had been arrested.