Geordin Hill-Lewis has inherited a City Council that has a shameful track record of being anti-poor.
A few weeks into his tenure and it looks like the new mayor is next to wear the tag of “Democratic Alliance bully” in charge of the City of Cape Town.
There’s plenty of time left in his term to convince Capetonians otherwise, but he’s going to have to work extra hard to do so, after one of his Law Enforcement officers shot a homeless man in the mouth this week - dead.
Dumisani Joxo, 38, was boiling a pot of pap on a fire in Rondebosch on Sunday.
A neighbour complained and officer Luvolwethu Kati arrived on the scene to lay down the by-law.
Joxo hadn’t been smoking tik or melting copper, he was hungry and cooking a meal, according to the state prosecutor.
The officer had min tyd, kicking the pot off the fire when Joxo refused to put out the fire.
Hungry and angry - not a good combo - Joxo apparently lunged at him with a spoon.
It’s not clear if this was a metal, plastic or hout lepel.
At this point, Kati went for his gun and blasted Joxo in the face - in self-defence, according to his lawyer.
Kati, a young 22, was charged with murder in Wynberg court and granted R1000 bail.
This case is not just a straightforward altercation between two men in which one was tragically killed, however.
It’s not even a case of a cop and a bad guy in which the latter came off second best.
This is an armed City official who killed a poor, homeless, hungry man. And for what?
Ndifuna Ukwazi, an organisation that champions the rights of the poor, and a general thorn in the side of the DA-led City, is demanding answers.
One of their attorneys, Danielle Louw, says: “The City is guilty of using excessive force to address a by-law offence. To use a loaded firearm to threaten someone to extinguish a small fire used for cooking, is a disproportionate and irresponsible response.”
They also want the City to conduct an investigation into the Law Enforcement unit, their legislative powers, the training of its officers and its oversight mechanism.
City security chief, JP Smith, said they are “viewing the incident in a serious light”.
One would hope so.
And: “The City will follow the prescribed labour-related laws and policies applicable to this matter.”
Not sure what this means, but it doesn’t sound like the urgent attitude review that we are hoping for.
It’s time for the City to take a long, hard look at themselves in the mirror and say:
We are an administration that bullies poor citizens;
We are accused of providing better services to historically white and wealthy suburbs;
We harass and impede small business people trying to make an honest living in public spaces.
That last one really grinds one’s gears.
Honestly, there’s a pandemic and an economic crisis and hundreds of thousands have lost their jobs.
The common sense thing to do is support and show leniency to struggling local entrepreneurs.
But no. Just last month, fruit and veg trader, Farouk Brenner complained to the Daily Voice that he is gatvol of Law Enforcement confiscating his stock on Prince George Drive in Grassy Park.
They take his produce, which goes to waste, fine him R800 each time, and Farouk has to send his staff home because there’s nothing to sell for the day.
Law Enforcement's response? “He failed to comply and was then fined for trading at the intersection and causing a traffic hazard.”
You get the same thoughtless tone when evictions are carried out.
Last October, an informal Manenberg soup kitchen that feeds 300 people was demolished by the Anti Land Invasion Unit.
Human Settlements head Malusi Booi wouldn’t hear anything, saying it was “built on City road reserves”.
“These were newly erected unlawful structures.
“The City removes unlawfully erected, incomplete and unoccupied structures during daily operations carried out in all areas across the metro.”
Now, it’s that kind of callous attitude that needs to change.
Then we need to talk about the plans to close the Eastridge and Rocklands clinics in Mitchells Plain.
Mr Hill-Lewis, you’re a young man. You’re not over the hill.
It’s not too late to change the way this City treats its vulnerable citizens.