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The rising anger in Cape Town around City’s handling of the homeless

A cross marks the spot where Dumisani Joxo was shot and killed in Rondebosch, allegedly by a City law enforcement officer, who now faces a murder charge. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

A cross marks the spot where Dumisani Joxo was shot and killed in Rondebosch, allegedly by a City law enforcement officer, who now faces a murder charge. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 18, 2022

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by Lorenzo A Davids

There is an anger building up in Cape Town. It is palpable. I have seen it in my daily train travels into the city. The engagement between security and ticket examiners and train travellers is of near explosive exchanges.

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I have seen how Parliament fire accused Mr Zandile Mafe’s story is manipulated by the investigating authorities, where police are approaching his family with alleged confessions.

During interrogation, it is the oldest trick in the book to say that someone confessed to something they never did.

In the case of Mr Mafe, it is essential for the police and Hawks that their prosecution of him succeeds because they have to turn the public’s attention away from their own colleagues’ dire dereliction of duty on the day to secure Parliament.

Last week an officer of the Western Cape government and City’s LEAP Safety Plan shot and killed a homeless man. Given the evidence to date, I have seen no need for the use of lethal force.

These officers are equipped with other de-escalating tools such as pepper sprays and batons. The question that baffles is why are these officers given guns? With having undergone only three to six months training, they are not competent to use a gun as a de-escalating tool in conflict situations. Its only use then is for it to become a murder weapon.

On Tuesday last week, I witnessed an assault on a homeless man by a security officer. I intervened to stop the baton assault on the man.

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Where is all this anger coming from? It is coming from the fact that we live in a city that is increasingly looking like a security fortress and not a respectful, safe, just, equitable, inclusive and prosperous city for all.

I recently was at a Home Affairs office and saw a citizen in casual clothes with a gun holstered to her side in the queue. I had no idea whether she was a detective or security officer. To see the open carrying of a gun on a citizen is scary.

Let me add here the deepening divide between “white NGOs” and “black NGOs” on the issue of justice. It is causing huge rifts in the narratives presented in the public domain.

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Most of the justice narratives advocated by white NGOs are not inconvenient justice narratives that threaten their position. In 2020, when I called a press conference to address the issue of the Strandfontein homeless camp, most white-led NGOs – some who work in the homeless sector – withdrew from the press conference and refused to endorse the press statement.

The DA government provides them with sufficient engagement opportunities to silence their voices on issues that matter to poor black landless people.

This silent fracturing of Cape Town has caused this emergence of anger. It is very nuanced and intended to build a city based on fearing poor black people and demonising homeless and landless people. But I also see an emergence of voices that are coming together to build coalitions of justice and hope to defy this narrative.

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On Friday, while the mayor and the premier were riding new bicycle lanes in the city, a group of about 80 citizens attended a memorial service organised by Ndifuna Ukwazi for Mr Dumisani Joxo, the man killed by the gun owned by the government.

There was no one from the City or province present to express condolences. Mr Joxo’s brother’s tearful words echo in my soul: “I forgive them, the people who did this to my brother. I forgive them.”

May these words echo the emergence of a new era for active citizens to come together to build a city not founded on guns, law enforcement and classist divisions.

Let us as citizens – linked arm in arm against the classist politics of government – build a city that is one of respect, justice, equity, safety, inclusivity and prosperity for all.

* Lorenzo A Davids.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Cape Argus

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