A total shutdown has been planned for the Western Cape on Wednesday by various shutdown committees in the province. Community leaders are saying that government refuses to recognise the situation for what it is and that accordingly, they will shut the province down for five hours as a form of peaceful protest action. A member of the Bishop Lavis Action Community has assured the public that there is no intention resort to any form of public violence or to damage property.
“The reason why we’re going to the street is simply because after more than a year of protest action the government still refuses to listen to the demands of people on the Cape Flats…What we are faced with is, in fact, a war situation and government isn’t treating it as a war situation.
That is why we’re going back to the streets. None of our demands have been met,” said a member of the Bishop Lavis Action Community, Abdul Karriem Matthews.
Matthews says that communities have made several requests for various governmental responses and that of those, very few have been answered.
Communities have now called for the arrest and conviction of gang leaders and drug lords, arguing that arresting “foot soldiers” is insufficient if the aim is to combat crime in a meaningful way, according to Matthews.
“We’ve called for permanent tactical response teams in the hot zones, it hasn’t happened. We’ve called for permanent base camps in the hot zones, it hasn’t happened. We’ve looked at the causes of crime – which are unemployment, poverty and inequality – and in relation to that we’ve made a demand for a public works programme at a decent wage so that they [government] can provide people with alternatives and that has not happened either,” said Matthews.
“Right now, a number of the previous shutdown communities are involved in a crime summit with Minister Bheki Cele…but as far as we are concerned as the original shutdown movement, our demands have not been adhered to.
Unless you put boots on the ground, unless you start locking down these communities and arresting the second-tier gang leadership and the second-tier drug lords, nothing will change in communities.”
While Matthews would not elaborate on which communities would be affected by the shutdown, he has called for the entire province to stand in solidarity.
“There will be no tyres burning, stones thrown at vehicles nor any damage of private property…our actions will remain peaceful, but we will shut down. Your ability to get to work or your place of business cannot be more important than the war that’s being waged on the Cape Flats.
If we are unable to make a sacrifice for five hours, then how in heavens will we bring this war to an end?”
The shutdown is set to take place on Wednesday, 25 September, from 5am until 10am.