Friday’s Protest March: City taking things seriously, but too quietly?

Tomorrow’s protest march (or “prohibited event” as the city are quietly calling it) in Cape Town looks set to go ahead and will almost certainly be bigger than last month’s paltry 3,500 turnout. But whether the organisers will manage to get their somewhat optimistic estimate of 200,000 remains to be seen. I fully expect the Metro Police to tell us that there were 10,000 in town while Loyiso Nkohla and his Ogobityholo BaseKapa chums claim 3 million or something.

Either way, it’s reasonable to expect widespread disruption and – sadly – probably high levels of violence as well. And while the city has applied for an interdict to prevent the marchers from marching. This strikes me (no pun intended) as being a bit of a waste of time, since permission to march has already been denied and the organisers don’t seem to give a toss. I find it unlikely that they’ll suddenly have a change of heart when there’s an interdict against them.

Comrades! Let us take back this city! Let us show the White Madam that she cannot… wait… what? She’s got an interdict? OK. Never mind. Back to work everybody!

The Province claims to have done all they can to meet the demands of the organisers, and says that there is therefore no need for this action on Friday:

The Province has done everything that could be expected to engage with the leaders of Ogobityholo BaseKapa from the start of their campaign and we are willing to continue engaging with them on their issues of concern when presented in good faith. It should therefore be apparent that there is no reason for them to march on Friday, as our supposed “lack of engagement” was the claimed reason for their march.

But while the City is publicly being very quiet about the march and their preparations for it, there’s no doubt that a lot of planning is going on behind the scenes. Today’s Cape Times reports that there’s an internal memo doing the rounds:

It states that intelligence has been gathered by various agencies which suggests that march organisers have been mobilising people from Khayelitsha, Dunoon, Wallacedene and Brown’s farm in Philippi. Residents from informal settlements in Stellenbosch and Paarl are also believed to be joining the march.

The memorandum states that “looting has been encouraged at the planning meetings that have been taking place in the informal settlements. Organisers have suggested that food and Christmas presents will be easily available in the CBD for the marchers.”

More chillingly is the advice for emergency services and hospitals to prepare for large numbers of casualties:

Staff were also notified that “mass casualty resources” have to be checked and ready for deployment.


While this softly, softly approach is presumably about not giving the marchers much publicity, it’s certainly not doing the concerned citizens of the City any good. Helen Zille’s twitter timeline is filled with questions about whether people should come in to work tomorrow and whether any preparations have been made:

is there a strong possibility of a strike 2row?Is it advisable not 2 go to work 2row- if one works in town?

I own a showroom in central CT and am concerned about the rumored protests Fri. Will there be a police / army presence? Tx Barry

And who can blame them when that (publicly available) Provincial report contains this sort of information?

The Premier has written to the Mayor relaying information received from the State Security Agency that the protest march on Friday is deliberately intended to be violent. The organisers are planning various disruptions that include enforcing a work stay-away, stopping taxis and buses from operating and staging a three day sit-in outside the Provincial Legislature. The danger of random attacks on taxis, buses and commuters is therefore very real.

The information is that the organisers want this protest march to be accompanied by looting and attacks on businesses and commuters, although they plan to deny that this is their intention so that they can eschew responsibility for any violence and disruption that occurs.

If you’re going to make those sort of statements public, you also need to publicly reassure people that you’re doing something to prevent it happening and to keep them safe. That hasn’t been evident from the Province or the City as yet, so it’s natural that people are going to fear the worst about tomorrow in Cape Town.

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