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11 Sep 2007 10:36
A Mitchells Plain court on Tuesday postponed a hearing for Cape Town mayor Helen Zille and 10 others who were arrested on Sunday during a protest against drug lords in a suburb of the city.
Zille, also leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), made a brief appearance in a magistrate’s court in Mitchells Plain, outside Cape Town, to face charges that she had participated in an illegal gathering.
The case was postponed until October 26.
“It was a postponement requested by the state for further investigation and also apparently to get instructions from the director of public prosecutions,” Frank Raymond, Zille’s lawyer, said after the hearing.
Zille was arrested on Sunday at a police station in the Western Cape after leading an anti-drugs demonstration in the area, one of the main transit points for the country’s booming drugs trade.
DA councillor Grant Pascoe said Zille had visited the 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],” he said.
The DA leader could be sentenced to a year in prison and forced to pay a fine if found guilty, but it is widely expected that prosecutors will drop the case amid a public outcry over her arrest.
Zille, who is attempting to broaden the appeal of her predominantly white party and chip away at the dominance of the African National Congress (ANC), compared her treatment this week to what she endured during the apartheid era.
An activist and journalist who helped expose the murder of liberation struggle activist Steve Biko, who was beaten to death by apartheid security agents in 1977, Zille was harassed by the white minority government during the period.
Since taking over the leadership of the DA earlier this year, she has earned a grudging respect from the leadership of the ANC, which has made several unsuccessful attempts to unseat her as Cape Town mayor.
On Monday, ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe said Zille’s arrest was “very unfortunate” and added that she should have been treated with respect and dignity.
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