News24.com | WATCH | Police clash with protesting Saftu members in Cape Town

  • Earlier on Wednesday, police warned protesters they were not allowed to march to Parliament. 
  • Police spokesperson Andrè Traut confirmed two people were arrested during a clash between the police and protesters. 
  • Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, commenting on the protest, said he was open to engagement.

The SA Federation Trade Union has reacted with dismay at the way some of its members were treated after clashing with the police in Keizergracht Street, Cape Town, ahead of the Budget speech in Parliament.

The federation’s Western Cape organiser, Nomacebo Mbayo, told News24 it was challenging lockdown regulations around gatherings.

“We believe the government is using these regulations to suppress dissent. Other gatherings are permitted in the current regulations, except for political gatherings and we strongly believe that this is an attack on our right to protest. The Covid-19 gathering regulations are irrational and unconstitutional – they must be scrapped,” she said.

Earlier on Wednesday, the police warned protesters they were not allowed to march to Parliament.

Instead of marching, the federation arranged for a motorcade to drive to Parliament, but the police said this too was not allowed.

Protesters then got into their vehicles and were stopped as they made their way to Parliament. Stun grenades were used to disperse the group and two protest leaders were arrested.

Police spokesperson Andrè Traut said: “This office can confirm that two people were arrested this afternoon in Cape Town for an offence in terms of the Disaster Management Act. Once charged, they are expected to make a court appearance in Cape Town.”

READ | Chaos unfolds in Cape Town as Saftu protest shut down by police

The federation had initially applied for a permit, but it was denied by the City of Cape Town.

NPO Right To Know, who joined the march, also applied, but its application was also denied.

Among one of the issues the federation is protesting is the high unemployment rate.

On Tuesday, StatsSA released the employment data for the fourth quarter of 2020, which indicated that unemployment was now at 32.5% – the highest since 2008.

The General Industrial Workers’ Union of SA’s Abeedah Adams said the union was unhappy with the level of force used by the police.

“Our provincial secretary, who they just threw in the police van, had just suffered from a stroke recently and we asked them [the police] to release them, there was no law that was broken.

“We are going to demand that action be taken against these police officers.”

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni held a media briefing after his budget speech and commented on the federation’s demands for a minimum wage of R12 000.

“Government sets the national minimum wage based on a panel of experts and the Department of Labour is responsible for that function. Protesting, to me, is not helpful perhaps to make us aware of the difficulty of the minimum wage. I would have gone to speak to them,” he said.

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