/ 17 June 2014

Pretoria hawkers protest against alleged abuse by police

Members of the Tshwane traders' forum at the memorial service of vegetable vendor Foster Rivombo
Members of the Tshwane traders' forum at the memorial service of vegetable vendor Foster Rivombo

Hawkers in Pretoria threatened to make the city ungovernable on Tuesday if the Tshwane Metro police do not stop harassing them.

Members of the Tshwane Barekisi Forum called for the resignation of Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, alleging that he had failed them. 

“We want the president to intervene and rescue us. The Metro police officers who killed Foster Rivombo, our member, are threatening us,” forum deputy secretary Mary Ngema said. “We are harassed every day. Nothing happens if we open cases with Ipid [Independent Police Investigative Directorate]. They are working together against us.” 

More than 100 hawkers gathered near Bosman Station, protesting against the alleged abuse. Shops in central Pretoria closed their doors earlier in the day and traffic was gridlocked as hawkers sat, danced and sang on the roads.

Tshwane Metro police officers had to rush to move their vehicles from Lilian Ngoyi (formerly Van der Walt) Street to Isivuno House, the municipal head office, as hundreds of protesters – men in red Economic Freedom Fighters attire carrying sticks, sjamboks and rubber pipes – gathered.

Members of the South African Police Service escorted the crowd, some of whom carried placards saying “Ramokgopa is a liar, the most corrupt mayor ever” and “Ramokgopa must step down”. The police did not stop the protest.

Some of the protesters overturned rubbish bins as they marched along Paul Kruger Street.

Dan Matlanyane, a convenor at the forum, said the municipality had not sanctioned the protest. “If we are going to be arrested, let it be,” said Matlanyane. In January, the forum said that Rivombo, a vegetable vendor, was shot dead in the city for refusing to hand over his stock to Tshwane Metro police. 

Forum chairperson Shoes Maloka said Rivombo was shot by a police officer who wanted to confiscate his stock of apples and bananas. Comment was not immediately available from the Tshwane Metro. – Sapa