CAPE TOWN, September 26 – Minister of Police Bheki Cele met members of the Total Shutdown protest movement in Bonteheuwel in Cape Town on Wednesday, a day after protesters brought several areas of the city to a standstill.
The Total Shutdown protests are focused on working class neighbourhoods of Cape Town, with organisers saying nothing much had changed since the fall of Apartheid, with crime and violence rampant in many communities.
On Wednesday, community members gathered at the Bonteheuwel multi-purpose centre holding posters saying “Enough is enough”.
Cele was joined by several other government officials, including the City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security JP Smith and local councillor Angus McKenzie.
But Total Shutdown organisers objected, saying: “We will not allow our cause and this meeting to be used and taken over by a political party” and demanded that Smith and McKenzie leave. The pair initially refused saying they had been invited to attend the meeting, but eventually departed.
When the meeting started the organisers highlighted poverty, unemployment and inequality and said government spoke of these issues but had no idea what it was like to live like this.
The grouping said their children were being turned into child soldiers by gangs, while there was no police station.
Member of the Western Cape Total Shutdown group, Abdul Karim Matthews, said: “People leave for work and school early because we have an inefficient transport system, and when on your way to these places you will get robbed and you will get hurt”.
“When a grandmother has to make the choice of how to feed a child, of course she is going to stash drugs, so this means government and business has failed us.”
The group also accused Smith of wanting to attend the meeting to identify the agitators. “We are not agitators, we are just very angry,” said Matthews.
“We will develop a community safety plan and will tell the police how to do their job,” Matthews added.
Cele responded by saying: “The people of Western Cape and Cape Town have realised that working together will bring about the bettering of life. If we act on this call, life would be better soon.”
He said the issues had been broadened and he did not only see gangsterism, but poverty and hunger as well.
Cele said an imbizo would be happening soon for proper planning to tackle these issues.