Police arrest Zille over protest

Police arrested Democratic Alliance (DA) leader and Cape Town mayor Helen Zille on Sunday in connection with a protest she led against drug lords wreaking havoc in Cape Town’s poor districts, a party official said.

DA councillor Grant Pascoe said Zille was arrested after she went to a police station to inquire about the arrest of a religious leader who had participated in the protest.

”She and other marchers were given three minutes to disperse from the station because police said it was an illegal gathering. Immediately police arrested 15 people including [Zille],” Pascoe told Reuters.

State radio said Zille was later released from police custody after being charged with contravening the Gatherings Act. She is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

The last time I was taken in like this was under apartheid,” the tough-talking mayor said in remarks broadcast on the radio.

”It was a completely peaceful march. We had permission for it. It was within the law and it is a completely wrongful arrest and malicious prosecution.”

Cape Town is the only major city not controlled by the African National Congress (ANC). A DA-led coalition has governed the city since the 2006 municipal elections, taking over from the ANC.

Zille has warded off several ANC attempts to unseat her.

The DA elected Zille as its new leader in May, and she vowed to guard democracy against what she called the ”racial” politics of the ANC.

‘She refused to obey’

Meanwhile, Western Cape acting premier Leonard Ramatlakane said Zille should take action against suspected drug lords and gangsters who occupy council houses.

Ramatlakane accused Zille of contravening the law in her quest for the public’s support.

”The mayor has on numerous occasions been warned about her association with certain dangerous people who have openly said in the past that they will use urban terror in the fight against gangs and drugs and who have now transformed themselves into a new organisation with the same objectives and similar modus operandi,” read a statement.

”The mayor must surely know that in the late 1990s, people who purported to be fighting gangs and drugs were eventually convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment for serious crimes relating to urban terror.”

Ramatlakane accused Zille of embracing people who have strong links to vigilantism in the Western Cape.

”Mitchell’s Plain is at the heart of the re-emergence of vigilante activity in the Western Cape and houses have been burnt down during similar marches in recent months.

”Not only that but, having heard the news of her arrest and enquiring from the police, it is clear to us that mayor Zille made herself guilty of contravening the law by participating in an illegal demonstration.

”She should have known that the gathering outside the Mitchell’s Plain Police Station was illegal and, despite warnings from the police, she refused to obey the law.”

Ramatlakane went on to say that shady characters who had their own devious agendas wanted to use Zille to break the law.

”It is unfortunate that mayor Zille felt the need to associate with people who push the boundaries of the law when all indications are that the police have a comprehensive strategy in place to fight drugs and gangs and that fight is beginning to show early wins, as seen in our first quarter report on the police’s successes in our 15 priority areas.

”Statistics show that the police, in partnership with communities, have been making major inroads in the fight against drugs [especially Tik] and gangs.” – Sapa

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