The arrest of Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Helen Zille was an attempt to settle political battles with state resources, the Western Cape office of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Tuesday.
The Cosatu statement coincided with a brief appearance by Zille and 10 other people in the Mitchells Plain Magistrate’s Court on a charge under the Regulation of Gatherings Act.
Cosatu said the confrontational ”circus” between the provincial government and the City of Cape Town — of which Zille is also mayor — had been exacerbated by her arrest.
”[It] should be condemned as it uses state resources to settle political battles, and could be seen as part of the ongoing gimmick of governments to politicise everything whilst our people are suffering.
”The drug dealers are our enemies and we should all be working together to deal with that scourge.”
Zille and the others — seven men and three women, aged from 18 to 51 — were arrested on Sunday following an anti-drug march by members of the Peoples Anti-Drug and Liquor Action Committee (Padlac), in which Zille participated.
The case was postponed to October 26 for further investigation and a decision by the Western Cape director of public prosecutions.
Speaking to journalists afterwards, Zille said she still did not know what she was arrested for, and vowed to continue taking part in anti-drug campaigns.
She also called on police to act decisively against drug dealers.
”The question remains in the minds and the hearts and on the lips of people: Why are peaceful protesters harassed and arrested, and not the people driving the drug trade?” she said.
Zille said that when she first met Padlac chairperson Imam Fasieg Adams, he told her that people were very angry at the seeming free rein allowed to drug dealers in Mitchells Plain.
Adams had warned that unless an outlet was provided for their frustration it would not be possible to control this anger.
”And that was precisely what the Imam was trying to do — prevent vigilantism and violence,” said Zille. ”And with these kinds of objectives I and my organisation [the DA] can certainly associate.”
Zille also hit out at what she said were links between the deployment of police in strategic posts in Mitchells Plain and political agendas.
”We want to get to a police force that is non-aligned, that takes policing decisions on policing grounds and that protects people’s rights under the Constitution,” she said.
Zille’s attorney, Frank Raymond, said he was ”totally in the dark” on what Zille was charged with.
He said he had initially understood she was arrested for knocking on the door of an alleged drug dealer during Sunday’s march, but police were now saying it was because she was part of a later gathering outside the Mitchells Plain police station.
Raymond said the police should have formulated the charges, investigated them and only then summonsed Zille.
”This is absolutely amazing … it’s ridiculous, to be honest,” he said.
Several DA MPs, MPLs and city councillors were present at Tuesday’s court appearance, while party chairperson Joe Seremane joined Zille for her media briefing afterwards.
A small group of DA supporters held up a party banner outside the court before the hearing, under the watchful eye of a police contingent. — Sapa