Boesak warns Zille over army threat

Cape Town mayor Helen Zille’s threat to call in the army to quell taxi violence was reminiscent of the apartheid era, the Congress of the People’s (Cope) Western Cape premier candidate Allan Boesak said on Wednesday.

Boesak said he wanted to remind Zille, his Democratic Alliance (DA) rival for the premiership, that the primary duty of the army was to defend the country and its people.

Furthermore, he said, in terms of the Constitution executive mayors do not have the power to deploy soldiers.

“With this in mind, I call on Helen Zille to urgently reconsider this premature and dangerous intention,” Boesak said in a statement.

“Many of us remember the days when the army was deployed against those who had grievances with those in power and resorted to civil disobedience.

“Such tactics must always be the last resort as we never again want to see troops deployed against ordinary South African citizens.”

Zille this week said she would call in the army if there was more violent protest from taxi operators against the city’s plans to establish a proper public transport system in Cape Town.

The warning came after talks between the city and taxi owners affiliated to the National Taxi Association over Cape Town’s Integrated Rapid Transport broke down on Sunday.

During a taxi strike last month, the group was accused of preventing buses from taking commuters to work.

Boesak said the violence and intimidation linked to the stand-off was “unacceptable” but must be dealt with by the police and municipal law enforcement authorities.

He said Zille may have added to taxi operators’ frustration by reportedly waiting until Sunday to give them a presentation about the new transport system.

“I believe this should have been done early in last year when the plan ... had been announced in the media by the mayor.

“Clearly, the taxi associations should have been engaged at the preliminary stages and not after the work has already started.

“This lack of consultation may account for the tensions now being experienced and does not meet the prescriptions of various laws.”—Sapa

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