The civic group Gatvol Capetonians on Thursday organised a shutdown in protest against a shortage of social housing in areas including Grassy Park and Mitchells Plain.
Roads were barricaded and the City of Cape Town's instituting a civil claim of R1.5m to recover the cost of damage to infrastructure.
The Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, explains:
We added up the damages to the roads, traffic lights, street poles and other infrastructure.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
It appears that the trains that were burnt out were burned by departing shutdown protesters, so that might need to be added to the bill.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
At the same time, says Smith, the South African Police Service (SAPS) is proceeding with criminal action and has an instruction to make an arrest.
We're entirely in support of people's right to protest. I personally said I support any shutdown pertaining to the state of policing and I even said I would join them, on condition there's no damage to infrastructure and no blockading of roads.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
He says the movement made no effort to engage with the City ahead of the protest, driving the campaign on social media and through radio interviews.
The mayor attempted repeatedly to call one of the organisers and speak to them, but they didn't return his call or engage him at all.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
There are reports that the group's spokesperson, Fadiel Adams plans wider protests on 29 August.
We'll respond to incidents under the command of the South African police because SAPS are in charge when we get to public order policing incidents, not the City, and we will take as best measures that we can to avoid disruption of traffic, open roads as quickly as possible and prevent damage to infrastructure and loss of life.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
Again, any further costs that are incurred we will proceed to try and recover through civil action while the state holds people responsible for public violence in terms of criminal action.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
Responding to callers' allegations that the City is more aggressive in pursuing legal action against Gatvol Capetonians than people organising civil action in other areas like Philippi, Smith says with these protests there is often not a clear leader to hold accountable.
He also contends that the narrative of the group is one of racial nationalism.
The cause is committed to driving a wedge between black and coloured and white residents and utterances in the past have been made that black people needed to be removed from the province, so there is an aggressive racist undertone to the movement.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
I reject that narrative completely. Wherever a person makes him- or herself clearly visible as the inciter of the violence, we will pursue action.— JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security - City of Cape Town
Listen to the conversation here:
This article first appeared on CapeTalk : Aggressive racist undertone to Gatvol Capetonian movement - JP Smith