18 February 2013

South Africa: Grabouw - Renewed Threats of Violent Protest

press release

The person behind the violence and vandalism surrounding the recent Grabouw by-election is again threatening more of the same.

The threats are contained in emails between John Michels, a local agitator in Grabouw, and Chris Punt, Theewaterskloof Mayor.

In the e-mails, Michels threatens "to fight you (the DA-led municipality) at all levels even if we need to take our protest to areas where it will create mega media attention..." He also says: "This time the protest action will make any previous protests look small".

The threats are a result of the supposed refusal by Mayor Punt to meet Mr Michels to discuss community issues.

Mayor Punt scheduled this meeting on two occasions but Mr Michels failed to arrive.A standing invitation exists to reschedule these meetings.

This strange behaviour from Mr Michels of failing to arrive for meetings and then accusing the council of ignoring him suggests that he is more interested in furthering violent protest than dialogue.

Prior to the violence that preceded last year's Grabouw by-election, Mr Michels had threatened to "use school children" to make a DA councillor's ward ungovernable. He also said he would "use farmworkers to turn the town upside down".

This was contained in affidavits from DA councillors drawn up a month before the protests. Mr Michels had attempted to bribe local DA councillors to defect to the ANC and force a by-election. This was successful in one instance. Leading up to the by-election, Mr Michels featured prominently in the media and in reports from the community as the leader of violent protest.

Mr Michels now appears intent on repeating this strategy.

The people of this province are disheartened with this kind of behaviour. Too much damage has already been suffered, not just in the economic sense of the word but also physical and emotional damage.

The DA believes in meaningful negotiations to address any local disputes. In all the DA-led municipalities in the Western Cape, this is our starting point. All members of the community's grievances, regardless of their status or political affiliation, are taken seriously and repeatedly solved through consultation and negotiation.

What the DA does not accept or tolerate, is threats to the safety of residents. This strategy is increasingly becoming part of an orchestrated campaign by the ANC, known as Project Reclaim, that has already caused tremendous damage in this province.

In healthy democracies, parties compete at the polls. The DA calls on the ANC and its local proxies to respect the rule of law and not act in ways that will only harm the province and its people.

Ivan Meyer, DA Leader in the Western Cape

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