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News24.com | Cops use stun grenades to disperse activists protesting 'anti-poor' by-laws in Cape Town

Activists in Cape Town march against City of Cape Town by-laws.

Activists in Cape Town march against City of Cape Town by-laws.

Marvin Charles

Chaos erupted on the streets of Cape Town after the police used stun grenades to disperse social justice activists who protested outside the DA's provincial offices in Greenmarket Square.

As activists made their way down Darling Street, the police geared up to disperse them.

A scuffle ensued between officers and protesters, injuring an activist who was taken to hospital for treatment. 

Members from Reclaim the City, Housing Assembly, Movement for Care, Rehoming Collective and Ndifuna Ukwazi took to the streets to express their anger after the City of Cape Town approved the new Unlawful Occupation By-law and amended Streets, Public Places and Prevention of Noise and Nuisances By-Law of 2007.

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The head of political organising at Ndifuna Ukwazi, Buhle Booi, said the organisation would be laying criminal charges against the police for mishandling the activists. 

"We are disappointed that police came to disrupt our march without any warning us to disperse and without hearing why we are protesting. We told them that we want to engage with the DA's mayoral candidate, Geordin Hill-Lewis, about these by-laws," he added. 

Booi said the police opened fire on the elderly and mothers with children.

"We will be laying criminal charges. We are outside the DA's offices to say that the by-laws that they passed must be withdrawn, and its only DA members that passed this by-law.

"The mayoral candidate must make a plan for service delivery in informal settlements. People deserve proper services," he said.  

In September, the City passed the by-laws, which activists labelled as "anti-poor", adding it would "criminalise homelessness".

Reclaim the City Woodstock chapter leader Karen Hendricks said the by-laws were unconstitutional and should be abandoned. 

"The by-laws will seek to displace people who are already homeless in the city. The DA-led City has voted for this by-law to be passed and a vote for the by-law is a vote against the people of the city. Come November 1st, people really need to know where to cast their votes," she added. 

In response to the protest, the City said in a tweet on Friday: "The South African Police Service [SAPS] is the responsible agency for public order policing and decides what actions are taken during an incident/on a scene. The City acts in support of and on instruction from the SAPS in this regard."

The City has defended the by-laws, saying they would help to protect land and buildings from unlawful occupation. 

Last month, Mayor Dan Plato said the City had a constitutional obligation to make sure "that our public open spaces and the city remain sustainable". 

"We are a caring city seeking to uphold the rule of law. That is why, once gazetted, it will officially be law in Cape Town that an offer of social assistance first be made, including shelter, to ensure the constitutional enforcement of the prohibition on sleeping in public places," he added.