The City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security directorate has defended Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato, amid calls for him to step down over an altercation with an Ocean View resident on Friday. According to the City, the footage was distributed by the Cape Coloured Congress (CCC) as a means of politicking, a claim the party disputes.
It follows edited video footage taken during a walkabout with ward councillors, Neighbourhood Watch Groups and community members last week, which has since gone viral. Plato is seen telling resident, Aslam Richards, to “shut up” when he requests information over housing and safety in the area, as well as when a community meeting will be taking place. A few frames later, an agitated Plato is seen pointing a finger at Richards, as offices step between the pair, before separating them. The footage does not depict what led up to the near physical altercation.
Political parties responded with disgust to the clip, raising calls for Plato to retract his statements and apologize, or step down as Executive Mayor. EFF spokesperson in the Western Cape Wandile Kasibe was among those proposing the ultimatum of an apology or resignation. A statement undersigned by ANC caucus spokesperson Fiona Abrahams also raised calls for Plato to be dismissed, describing his behaviour as “thug-like and unbecoming of Cape Town’s Executive Mayor”. The CCC, on social media, further expressed intention to lodge a formal complaint against Plato over his utterances.
In a statement on Tuesday, the City of Cape Town said it was Plato’s seventh such visit to crime-affected areas in the city, to express support of Neighbourhood Watch Groups assistance with crime prevention and encourage community participation. In noting the importance of collaboration between community members, NHW groups and officials; Plato made brief reference to the altercation and said the following:
‘I was disappointed that some political opportunists sought to disrupt this community walkabout and showed complete disrespect for the NHW members, but thankfully the political opportunists left after they had filmed their propaganda and we could continue with those residents who care for their community,’ said Executive Mayor Dan Plato.
Richards reneged on an agreement to an interview with VOC. Speaking to VOC on Wednesday, however, one of the residents who were present, Vasco Vigis, emphasised that although both he and Richards are members of the CCC, they attended “in the capacity of community activists”, adding that only two members wore branded sweaters. He added that several attempts to hold a community meeting with Plato had not materialised and that the group “decided (let’s) go down and just ask the mayor this question.”
Vigis explained that Richards had specifically been requesting information about housing opportunities and land grabs taking place in Ocean View, demanding answers regarding the Dido Village and Lumvoyo housing projects, where certain race groups are seemingly being prioritized over others:
“A lot of people from Ocean View has been displaced from there during the Forced Removal Act. And so has people from Lumvoyo. If I may, the people from Lumvoyo is mainly black people and coloured people was on that line. Our gripe is, if you’re going to give to citizen X, give to citizen Y equally. Not take away from citizen X and give to citizen Y,” said Vigis.
“We persisted and persisted and persisted, until he got irritated and lost his cool, and told Aslam to shut up, in so much that he wagged a finger in Aslam’s face. Now, nobody physically touched him. If you look at the footage, that will speak for itself,” he said.
Meanwhile, the City’s Safety and Security Directorate spokesperson Jean Pierre Smith said the incident was a planned, political stunt. He denied claims that Plato is inaccessible, as well as Vigis claims that there were only two CCC members wearing branded shirts. Smith labeled the attempt to “hijack the mayor’s engagement” as “discourteous and unreasonable”. He further described their behaviour as “belligerent, rude and abusive”, noting that the situation evidently become volatile.
“There was one young lady who just kept on screaming and Aslam (was) walking behind the mayor, constantly interjecting (and) shouting. It got to a point where SAPS, without the City asking in any way, intervened at about 12 minutes or so in and pushed them back. Because they were intruding on the mayor’s personal space. He (Richards) and Vasco say they weren’t touching him, I don’t think that was the case. It became impossible to proceed,” said Smith, citing video footage.
Smith elaborated that a camera man had been “positioning himself”, adding that the members had dispersed “after they got the footage they wanted” and a “constructive” engagement thereafter ensued.
“At one point, they get called back, get briefed and then rush forward, awaiting the camera man to position himself and then they launch their intervention, their attack, on the mayor and that’s when he turns on them. They knew exactly what they were doing. As soon as they got the footage, they immediately disappeared, and it was no longer about the community. They ran away and the community continued doing the important work they are doing,” said Smith.
“Dan was patient with them for almost 20 minutes and then he realizes it’s just a political stunt, these people are here primarily in a political capacity and they are interfering with this event with a community that is sincere about their issues, and then he acted. He acted in a manner that he thought was the only way that that particular individual would understand,” he elaborated.
When questioned about whether the mayor’s speech was appropriate, Smith had this to say:
“I think it depends very much that it depends on the audience you’re dealing with. When you’re dealing with civilized reasonable people who behave in a reasonable manner toward others, you moderate your behaviour accordingly.”
CCC president Faidel Adams has disputed Smith’s statements, questioning the mayor’s motives ahead of the 2021 general election:
“There is no aggravation on the part of the CCC. Yes, we hound the mayor for answers. Hounding the mayor for answers is not a criminal act. The mayor is walking around there as if he cares about what’s happening in Ocean View. Why is it in an election year the mayor is so prominent in the gang infested areas? Why is the mayor not that visible outside of elections?” asked Adams.
“Mr. Smith must understand one thing- that the mayor is walking around with a security detail. They are trained and armed professionals. They are taught to pre-empt and anticipate any assault on the mayor. If you look at the tape, and forget about JP’s monotone voice, you will see that there is absolutely no threat to the mayor because the security doesn’t respond until the mayor loses his temper because he cannot answer,” said Adams.
After being questioned as to why CCC members wore branded t-shirts, Vigis denied that it was a political stunt.
“(It is) very much not so. We are first family people, then activists and then politicians. In this capacity, we were activists. We are still very young at this. That (wearing branded t-shirts) was the mistake,” he said.
The City spokesperson argued that the mayor may already be discussing the matter with relevant stakeholders. Vigis reiterated that the community meeting, which was cited in a “memorandum handed to the city months ago”, has not been responded to:
“I don’t understand what (Smith) means by stakeholders but the people that live in Ocean View, our family and friends, a lot of them have been thrown off the land and a lot of them are still in poverty. They are saying ‘as os net terug kan gaan’ (if only we could go back). There are people in Ocean View that feel they have been left out of it, there are lots of backyard dwellers. Housing is a huge issue in many places across South Africa. But now there’s space, where our ancestors were thrown off,” said Vigis.
Smith claimed that footage is being selectively used to push a political agenda. Adams said that what members did, was question the mayor:
“If I’m understanding what Mr.JP refers to as ‘politicking’, then we should not be asking the simple questions like how far is the housing project? Mr. Mayor, when we return to our land? Mr. Mayor, when are you fixing the staircases that you lied about? To mention that, if this is politicking, then indeed we are politicking.”
“But you see, Smith (is) not intelligent enough to understand what we’re saying, because for 16 years since the D.A. has run the city of Cape Town, they have said what they want, when they want. And the media has printed it as fact. For the first time in (its) history, the D.A. is being held accountable by a group of people who are unafraid, who are not afraid to be aggressive in the approach. And when I say aggressive, I mean calmly aggressive. Now, they cannot handle this and therefore the lie is exposed.”
Smith emphasised that there is no need for an apology, citing worse behaviour from other senior political leaders:
“I don’t believe the mayor needs to be disciplined. I listen to what political leaders say every day. Yesterday (Tuesday), the words “shut up’’ was used in the Zondo commission. I’ve heard the caucus leader in ANC council use much worse language. I’ve seen their CCC party leader, Fadiel Adams, use the P-word and describe women and their procreative organs in such vulgar terms on social media. When you’ve reasonably attempted to make a noise about that, let’s talk about the fairly harmless attempt by Dan to deal with people who were blatantly abusive and unreasonable,” said Smith.
Adams condemned Smith’s justifications, stating that he “is a liar, a compulsive one, and today (Wednesday) he exposed himself as a racist as well.”
“Mr. Smith says that it’s OK for the mayor to speak like that to certain people. The classism of the DA shining through that it’s okay for a white man’s garden boy to speak to a man from Oceanview, from Eester River, from Lavender Hill or Delft, as he wants to. But he needs to soften his approach when he speaks to Camps Bay, when he speaks to the City Bowl, when he speaks to Constantia.”
“It is clear that the same level of respect accorded to us is the same level of service delivery given to us. Dan Plato and J.P. Smith should both resign when the raw footage of this video is released and J.P. Smith is found to be a liar, again, we expect that he does the honorable thing and stand down.”
Listen to the full interview here: