The Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town have slammed the heavy handedness of police during a peaceful protest at Parliament this morning. A group of people under the banner of the #Serve-Us-Please movement tried to form a human chain with rope for social distancing, while highlighting the dire situation that millions of people in the tourism and hospitality industry face.
The protest, however, did not last long. Police moved in on the group while it was still organising itself, forming a chain with rope between people. They were given five minutes to disperse, as the gathering is illegal under Level 3 of COVID-19 regulations. Soon after, there was chaos with police using a water canon and stun grenades to disperse them.
Many people were shocked and outraged by police action.
“My tax money is feeding them and they’re spraying me, no no no, I’m hungry man, I’m hungry…Cyril please sir, please sir, with respect, my people are hungry, please sir, I want my job, I want to work for this country,” pleaded one.
“I’m shaking, I’m shaking, I was very afraid, that’s not fair, they mustn’t treat us like that, please, please. This is outrageous, we live in a democracy, not a police state, I’ve never seen this in my life, I’m actually shaking, I feel so angry and so sad. We want our money and our jobs back, please open tourism, we are hungry, our kids are hungry what should we do, just open tourism,” said another.
The protesters also called for the lifting of the ban on the sale of alcohol.
Protest organiser, Brent Perremore, says the industry is a major job creator in the province, and tens of thousands of people have been cut off from any income for months.
“The issue is dire, speaking as an ordinary South African. I haven’t received any salary in five months and I’m one of the lucky ones. My wife is, fortunately, earning a salary but we are here standing in solidarity with the people who don’t have that luxury, you know. There are single moms with three kids and two kids and people with families to provide for,” he says.
Both Provincial Minister for Finance, David Maynier and the MEC for Community Safety, Albert Fritz, condemned the heavy-handed police action, calling it hypocritical as police are under-resourced and unable to adequately attend to violent and malicious protests that have been ongoing.
“Our tourism and hospitality industry is hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the current restrictions are having a major impact on these businesses who are facing severe job losses and closure but instead of a common-sense response the tourism industry has been subjected to flip-flopping and today unnecessary use of violence against a peaceful protest,” Maynier explains.
Meanwhile, in small coastal towns like Gansbaai in the Overberg, which are almost entirely reliant on tourism, protesters came out to plead for government to heed their call.
“In Gansbaai, the major part of our income is tourism we have got the whales we have guest houses of world-class and with foreign tourists not being here I am losing 70 percent of my turnover this year. It’s a major effect and Gansbaai is bleeding, everyone is affected by this from restaurants to guest houses to the hardware stores, we are all affected, we are dying,” said businessman, Riaan Franken.
Employees in the hospitality and tourism industries in Gansbaai, who have been without an income for months, also pleaded to have their jobs back.
Hospitality, tourism industries in Gauteng call for full operation:
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