Employees within the tourism and hospitality industry took to the streets of Cape Town’s CBD on Friday morning to join the #ServeUsPlease protest. The protest was organised to highlight the plight of these employees, as their industries have crumbled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What started off as a peaceful protest, quickly became violent as police arrived to disperse the crowds using stun grenades and water cannons. Speaking to Cape Town Etc, Mogamat Allie, a freelance tour guide affiliated with Cape Select Tours, explained the atmosphere during the march.
Peaceful Non-violent Hospitality Workers dispursed by @SAPoliceService outside Parliament in Cape Town with Stungrenades and Watercanon. @News24 @Abramjee @SABCNews @eNCA @1SecondLater @GovernmentZA @WesternCapeGov #PeacefulProtest pic.twitter.com/F1vM7C0pja
— BOSBEER.COM (@BOSBEER2006) July 24, 2020
“We started off in groups of 15, all connected with 1.5 metre-long ribbons to maintain social distancing,” Allie said. “Soon some police officers arrived with water cannons and shot stun grenades into the crowd.”
According to eyewitness reports, four tourist guides were arrested. Allie accompanied some coworkers to the police station to free one of the arrested guides.
“The protest was peaceful until police arrived. We were marching to highlight our plight to government. The hospitality and tourism industry contributes 7.6% to South Africa’s GDP, and we have been without work since March,” Allie said. “We are struggling to feed our families. At end of the month, we have our Christmas and I’ve had to tell my children to make due with what we have. We simply do not have money to purchase new clothes for them as we usually would.”
Allie was hit by a water cannon and says those partaking in the march did nothing to provoke police.
“Again, it was a peaceful protest,” he said. “In the past few months, I have lost $13 000 because I cannot work.”
Lizna Boshoff-Jacobs also marched in the protest, she co-owns a private tour business with her husband called Cape Rebel Tours.
“Police arrived with stun grenades and water cannons within half an hour of the protest starting,” she said. “Since our business is small, we have had had no retrenchments because it is just my husband and I. To make some money, we sold wine before it was banned again.”
Boshoff-Jacobs and her husband stood in lines to receive SASSA grants to no success, and are struggling due to lockdown as their business cannot operate.
“The protest was very peaceful and it was quite exciting before police arrived,” she said. “Many of us hadn’t participated in protests before, and the organisers asked us to sit down to show that we are passive. Then suddenly we were targeted by water cannons and stun grenades. It became chaos. My husband and I had to leave to return home to our baby.”
City of Cape Town Executive Mayor Dan Plato has condemned the conduct of the South African Police Service (SAPS) during the protest.
“It is unacceptable that a peaceful protest by business owners and employees fearing for the loss of their livelihoods, is met with water cannons and stun grenades. Reported claims from the SAPS members on the scene that ‘protests are not allowed under lockdown’ does not hold water as several protests have been allowed outside parliament during lockdown without the use of such intimidation tactics,” Plato said.
“The hospitality and tourism sectors are vital to Cape Town’s economy, but because of the national government regulations, they are facing complete financial ruin. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are in jeopardy, putting further strain on government resources, and limiting efforts to grow our economy.”
Picture: Lizna Boschoff-Jacobs/Supplied