Riot fears shut shops
Traders close down after march rumour
FEAR gripped Cape Town’s city centre yesterday as rumours spread that protesters who rioted in the Mother City on Wednesday were returning to town.
City authorities meanwhile slammed the police, who made only two arrests during Wednesday’s looting and mayhem.
Although police said last night that more arrests were imminent, it emerged that the two men widely believed to have led the Wednesday protest – former ANC councillor Andile Lili and councillor Loyiso Nkohla – were still free.
Yesterday, after hearing another march was on its way, city vendors and shop-owners, still shaken by the havoc wreaked on Wednesday, began quickly packing up their stalls and closing their businesses. Metro police were on high alert.
By mid-afternoon there were no stalls open in St George’s Mall and the area was strangely quiet.
Police spokesman Captain Frederick van Wyk said members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) were supposed to protest in lower Plein Street between noon and 1.15pm. But Luthando Nogcinisa, Nehawu provincial secretary, said he knew nothing about a protest.
JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security, eventually confirmed the reports of a protest were just rumours.
“We heard about a protest and immediately checked camera footage from the bus terminus, taxi rank and train station. We found nothing but still requested police standby as a safety precaution,” he explained.
An angry Smith said whoever started the rumour was taking full advantage of the panic caused by Wednesday’s rioting.
About 3 500 people gathered outside the provincial legislature on Wednesday, but a group broke away, and looted stalls. Some of the vendors who were looted had still not returned to the CBD yesterday.
The sight of police and metro police posted along Adderley Street yesterday only fuelled fears.
Abdieya Williams, who has been selling pies and other snacks in Adderley Street for the past 17 years, said she was shocked when police told her another band of protesters were on their way yesterday.
“The police and metro police were parked every few metres in the streets which made us even more scared. And after Wednesday we just wanted to get out of town before anything happened,” she said.
Smith yesterday slammed the police, charging a lack of action after only two unnamed protesters were arrested. Further details about those arrested could not be ascertained last night, in spite of requests to the police.
Smith said police should already have handed their investigation to the National Prosecuting Authority to determine whether all protesters involved in illegal activity could be brought to book.
“There was a myriad of evidence of the public violence, CCTV footage and copious amounts of photographs exposed by the media. It’s not rocket science to prove who did it, arrest and prosecute them,” he said.
Last night Van Wyk said more arrests were imminent. Police were still studying camera footage.
Lili and Nkohla confirmed last night they were not the two men who appeared in court yesterday.
Earlier this week police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut defended the police’s operation, saying: “We have good reason to believe our tactics on Wednesday ensured that the situation was kept under control, and prevented further chaos.”
Smith also called for the urgent
prosecution of Lili and Nkohla, saying “people like Lili and Nkohla know they enjoy a certain amount of protection, which is why they openly threaten the premier”.
The pair still faces pending charges in connection with their alleged role in the toilet protests.
He said recommendations had been sent to the city’s legal advisers to ensure charges were brought against protesters in their individual capacities, the organisers of the march and the Informal Settlement Association, for violating the Regulations of Gatherings Act.
The City of Cape Town’s initial estimate of the damage was R6 million.
Smith cited a number of transgressions by the protesters.
But last night Nkohla referred to Smith as a “little white boy who makes big statements to be popular”, and said he could not take him seriously.
He denied being present when the looting began, and blamed the chaos on the provincial premier and DA leader Helen Zille.
“If Zille had come out to answer the calls of the people then the looting would never have happened,” said Nkohla.
“They are trying to sue us to take away attention from the real issues. If a dog or cat pooped on Zille’s doorstep she would blame Andile and Loyiso. We will always be blamed,” he charged.
Lili could not be reached for comment last night, but has been quoted as saying he has plans to lead a three-day mass protest of 250 000 people starting on November 29.
“No one is going to come in or out of Cape Town. We will make a mess,” he was quoted as saying.
FEARFUL: Somalian informal traders pack up their stand in St George’s Mall yesterday after hearing that protesters were making their way to the CBD.