Tensions were high this past week after protests erupted in Bo-Kaap. High-rise buildings and commercial developers have caused anger within the community, with the situation being compared to forced removals.
The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) released a statement on Wednesday, condemning the amount of force used by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Law Enforcement officers.
MJC spokesperson on the Bo-Kaap matter Sheikh Dawood Terblanche said the force used by officers was unnecessary.
“We do condemn in the strongest of terms the unnecessary force that was used against our people, our innocent women and elders. This was undoubtably a peaceful protest,” Terblanche said.
Terblanche continued to say that the MJC pledges its full allegiance with the protesting residents.
“The MJC will be putting its weight behind the legitimately elected organisations within Bo-Kaap and we are ready to once again meet with them as we have on Wednesday. We will stand behind them 100%,” he said.
Allegations of police brutality remain a pressing matter, but only to the ones on the receiving end. When addressing the matter of alleged police brutality during Bo-Kaap protests, Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security JP Smith said that SAPS are in control of Metro police officers. According to Smith, an investigation is being launched into the conduct of police officials.
“Staff were legally obligated to act on a court interdict and when Metro Police staff are at the scene of public violence, they operate under instruction from SAPS. Metro Police staff will take orders from SAPS as they are in control at public disorder or protest actions,” said Smith in a message to VOC News.
A member of the Bo-Kaap Collective Shafwaan Loubsher said that the organisation is in the process of compiling official communication that needs to be sent to relevant parties.
“It is totally unacceptable that there was so many police and private security members in full riot gear present. The way they treated us was unacceptable. We are still busy drafting communication to send to the correct departments.”
“No one has given us an explanation as to why that amount of force was used,” said Loubsher.
The director for the Women’s Legal Centre and Bo-Kaap legal representative Seehaam Samaai said that there is a standing order in relation to SAPS on how they need to react in relation to protests.
“I think they (SAPS) are very confused around what is violent and what is disruptive because protests by nature should be disruptive. It is a means of a community or an individual saying that they want their voices to be heard. The challenge is that they see disruptive behaviour or protests as violent and what happens is that SAPS or Metro responds in a manner which is exceptionally violent,” Samaai said.
Samaai added that SAPS is not however, the only ones who need to be held accountable.
“It is broader than SAPS. There is the City of Cape Town and councillors. These politicians also need to be held accountable because the main reason people protest is because they haven’t been heard and not because they haven’t said anything.”
Samaai went on to say that the challenge of Bo-Kaap is broader than a crane coming into the community.
“It’s truly a fight for Bo-Kaap within a broader city in terms of their access to housing and land and also for the City to ensure the spatial justice in the broader City of Cape Town.”
By: Zaahidah Meyer