Pubdate: Tue, 11 Sep 2007
Source: Cape Argus (South Africa)
Copyright: 2007 Cape Argus.
Authors: Murray Williams and Leila Samodien
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


Defiant Cape Town Mayor Helen Zille vowed on Tuesday to  continue to 
lead a street battle against suspected drug  dealers in the city, 
with Atlantis her next target this  Sunday.

Zille planned to enter the Mitchells Plain magistrate's  court on 
Tuesday morning declaring her innocence on a  charge that she staged 
an illegal gathering outside the  Mitchell's Plain police station on Sunday.

Meanwhile, national ANC heavyweights were at odds with  their 
provincial officials over her arrest.

In Pretoria on Monday, ANC secretary-general Kgalema  Motlanthe said 
Zille's arrest had been "unfortunate"  and that she should have been 
treated with respect and  dignity to protect the image of South Africa.

"We would have thought, without changing the principle  that all 
shall be equal before the law, that all uphold  the law and that the 
rule of law be applied without  fear or favour, that a person holding 
such high public  office should have been treated with (a modicum of 
respect). The correct thing would have been for (Zille)  to be 
treated with the dignity her office called for."

But Community Safety MEC Leonard Ramatlakane lambasted  Zille's 
anti-drug protest and praised the police  action.

In an interview on Monday, he said Zille's actions  smacked of "cheap 
politicking", "hypocrisy" and  "grossly abusing her power as mayor 
and DA leader",  instead of taking practical action in the fight 
against crime and drugs.

Ramatlakane said that if she, or anyone in the  community, wanted to 
march against drug dealers, they  should do so lawfully.

"When the city police marched and blocked the N2, they  were armed 
and in full uniform. She asked the police to  intervene because they 
were contravening the law.

"When she does the exact same thing, she wants everyone  to close 
their eyes to it. It shows hypocrisy and  double standards on her 
part," he said.

Zille was arrested after demanding that the police  explain the 
arrest of Moulana Armien Maker earlier, as  he and Zille sought entry 
at the gates of homes  suspected to be used in the drug trade.

Zille said on Tuesday that she welcomed Motlanthe's  "sanity" on the matter.

"He understands that peaceful protest is a legitimate  part of the 
political landscape. The police's job is to  protect peaceful 
protesters, not to harass and arrest  them.

"He understands what an embarrassment this kind of  heavy-handed, 
unwarranted action has for South Africa's  image abroad."

"The message being sent is complete intolerance for the 
constitutional right to peaceful protest and  authoritarian police 
action. The message locally is  that the police are more interested 
in arresting  protesters instead of the druglords."

And she has vowed to file counter-charges against the  police 
alleging wrongful arrest and malicious  prosecution.

"I will be pleading not guilty because I know I did  nothing wrong 
and because I know what motives lie  behind my arrest.

"People in Mitchells Plain want politicians to be with  them on the 
ground, tackling drugs and abuse and  exposing the drug merchants.

"I'm going to continue to do this - we have a march in  Sunday in 
Atlantis," Zille said.

But Ramatlakane said: "If she wants to sue the police,  she should go 
ahead and do so and the police would have  to defend their actions. 
But (at the time of the march)  the police took what action they needed to."

Ramatlakane said Zille had been warned by police that  her protest 
was illegal when she marched in the area in  July, but she had again 
taken to the streets,  "knowingly and willingly contravening the law".

"Crime requires everyone to fight against it   political parties 
should stop politicking for cheap  political short-term gains when we 
should all put our  shoulders to the wheel in this matter."

The province had asked the City of Cape Town to help  identify 
council houses where drug-dealing was believed  to be taking place, 
so that the occupants could be  evicted."

But the city had failed to do so, he said.

He dismissed allegations that police were not arresting  drug dealers 
in Mitchell's Plain. "It's absolute  nonsense we were the ones that 
started the fight  against drugs and gangsterism, this ANC government."

According to Ramatlakane's office, between April and  July, 1 724 
drug-related arrests had been made in  Mitchells Plain, and 'there 
had been 707 seizures of  drugs.

Five tik factories had been shut down and 7 733g of tik  seized in a 
three-month operation compared to 8 321 for  all of last year.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom