Masizole Mnqasela, the DA Constituency Head for Overstrand and the Overberg District Municipality, has criticised Zwelihle Renewal and Overstrand Unite for going “against their word to respect the resolutions of the Stakeholders Forum” held on 8 July, and staging a protest march last Friday.

In a press statement released on Friday 12 July, Mnqasela said: “Today was an unnecessary act and places at huge risk the task that lies ahead. We must all stop the ongoing inflammatory statements on social media and various other platforms. They are not palatable at all and I find them inconsistent with the spirit of social cohesion and inclusiveness.

“I would like to call on Zwelihle Renewal and Overstrand Unite to recognise the Stakeholders Forum as the only process and platform to register and resolve disputes, among others,” urged Mnqasela.

Under a heavy presence of local law enforcement as well as a team from the Public Order Policing Service (POPS), Friday’s protest saw a crowd that varied throughout the day, according to police, from 200 to 500 supporters.

Vanessa Swanepoel, an Overstrand Unite (OU) leader, said that the leadership of neither Zwelihle Renewal (ZR) nor OU were involved in organising the march on Friday. Rather, it was the Zwelihle community at large who wanted to have the march.

A notice that was released on Thursday evening before the march said: “The Zwelihle community have decided to proceed with their march to hand over memorandums to various businesses that they believe are employing more foreign nationals than locals.”

Both Swanepoel and Land Party leader, Gcobani Ndzongana were asked by police to lead the protest march in their capacities as community leaders, after the volatility of the situation necessitated the use of stun grenades and rubber bullets by POPS when the protest group first assembled in the morning. The march then proceeded peacefully along Marine Drive.

However, with the interdict that was obtained last week by members of the Whale Coast Business and Community Forum (WCBCF) in place, the marchers were restricted to staying more than 50 metres away from the targeted businesses. The interdict also barred protesters from obstructing the R43.

The Misty Waves Hotel in Marine Drive, owned by the Lerm family, was one of the businesses that the protesters attempted to visit on Friday.

“We were quite astounded that the hotel was targeted as it has a reputation for being among the top 25 hotels in South Africa,” said Clinton Lerm, who is also an exco member of the WCBCF. “We have a workforce of about 35. Only one staff member is a foreign national and has a legal work permit. So for us, the motive for targeting Misty Waves Hotel was questionable from the beginning. The hotel has a union in place and the union has also distanced itself from the mass protest action,” said Lerm.

According to a statement by the WCBCF, the targeted businesses collectively employ hundreds of Hermanus residents, in a very tough economic environment. Most of them are dependent on tourism for survival. “The (protest) actions will undoubtedly lead to more unemployment. Marching to, and protesting in front of, tourism-dependent businesses will destroy jobs, not lead to growth and employment opportunities.”

At the Stakeholders Forum last week, it was agreed that a special purpose task team would be put together to mediate between local businesses and the Zwelihle community. A meeting was due to be held on Monday 15 July in the Speaker’s Boardroom of the Western Cape Provincial Parliament in Cape Town.

The task team members are the South African Police Service (SAPS), Zwelihle Renewal, South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), Overstrand Unite, Whale Coast Business and Community Forum, Hermanus Business Chamber, Overstrand Municipality, and the Departments of Labour and Home Affairs.

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