/ 30 October 2013

Cape Town protesters: It’s not about politics but delivery

A crowd protested outside the offices of the Western Cape premier Helen Zille.
A crowd protested outside the offices of the Western Cape premier Helen Zille. (David Harrison)

Breakaway groups looted stalls and robbed pedestrians in Cape Town on Wednesday while a crowd protesting outside the offices of the Western Cape premier Helen Zille seemed oblivious to the chaos.

Khayelitsha resident Cynthia Mtyingaza said she had come to the city to protest for land and housing, but had not seen any looting taking place.

"We want Zille to give us land and houses. I have five children to feed," said Mtyingaza. "We have no electricity and we cannot survive any longer."

Zille did not appear before the crowds, which had marched in the name of a group known as Cape Town Informal Settlements or Ogobityholo Basekapa.

"We are marching to demand land for housing development, decent sanitation and negotiated bus rapid transport and Cape Town integrated rapid transit system processes," said an SMS sent to the press.

Sthembele Majova, who was one of the ANC members suspended for bringing the organisation into disrepute as a result of his alleged involvement in the long-running poo-throwing saga, conveyed the message.

Speaking after the crowd had dispersed when the rain came down at 5.30pm, Majova said most protesters had left to catch trains home.

"What I can confirm is that we can't control the anger of the people. People are frustrated with the premier of the Western Cape, "he said. "We are angry she did not pitch up. We are going to give her seven days to respond to our memorandum."

Unemployment and poverty
Unemployment was a key factor among people the Mail & Guardian spoke to in the crowd. For them, there is no way out of the life of spiralling poverty, they said.

A group of Khayelitsha residents had gathered to sit on a low wall, taking a break from the protests that continued throughout the day. 

"This is really not a political protest. The street committees decided to come here today to protest. It is all about housing and service delivery," said one of the protesters, who asked not to be named.

Forty-year old Gordon Khudunyane said he lived in Malawi Camp in Bishop Lavis, where the situation for residents was intolerable.

"The protest is happening because we are squatting in conditions that have continued with no end for a long time," he said. "We want people to provide us with land. We will stay the night here to protest, we will stay here until we see Helen Zille. People are dying there in the squatter camps. We cannot continue living there in those conditions any longer."

M&G reporter Andisiwe Makinana said she had taken refuge in a hair salon and later behind the locked doors of a bank after the crowds started looting in the city.

Makinana tweeted from inside:

Later Makinana observed to her followers:

Police cordoned off streets in Cape Town to try to keep control over the crowd, and traffic jams grew as people tried to leave the city on different routes to the protesters.