Israel-Palestine: Cape Town’s commitment to freedom of expression is sacrosanct – GHL

Mayor proud of residents as the whole City has shown restraint, maturity, and a commitment to the rights of all

Cape Town’s commitment to tolerance and freedom of expression is sacrosanct

13 November 2023

In a time of great global dispute and conflict, Cape Town has thus far been an example of tolerance.

While we have seen violent protests all over the world in recent weeks, protests here have been an example of peacefulness, with very few exceptions. As Mayor, I have been proud of our city. We have shown restraint, maturity and a commitment to the rights of all residents to express themselves.

I specifically wish to commend the conduct of both those who agree and disagree with yesterday’s pro-Palestinian protest for their peaceful conduct.

Unfortunately, we saw violent disruptions today against a planned peaceful prayer gathering in support of Israel. This violence deserves the condemnation of all Capetonians who value free expression in our open democracy.

While residents or groups may disagree vehemently with one another, they may not engage in violent disruption. We call on all residents to desist from doing so.

Every person or group, of every belief and persuasion, has the right to protest peacefully in South Africa.

That right is Constitutionally protected, and for good reason, because in South Africa’s past certain protests were banned or violently suppressed, and opinions censored.

In the same way that tens of thousands of residents gathered yesterday to protest peacefully, so the planned protest today should have been respected and allowed to proceed peacefully and without interference.

It is the job of the South African Police and law enforcement agencies to protect that right, and the responsibility of every citizen to respect it.

Public Order policing is under the authority of the South African Police Service and they are in command when public disorder incidents take place. The SAPS inform us that two firearms were seized and seven people have been arrested.

We also condemn any hate speech uttered by radical minorities at protests, especially when that hate speech is directed towards little children. We have received video footage of a representative purportedly of the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) speaking at yesterday’s protest and calling young Jewish children in Cape Town “murderers". Such hateful language should similarly be condemned by all. Radical elements do not speak for Capetonians, and do not even speak for the protestors they claim to represent.

Cape Town is a city of diversity, inclusion and tolerance. Let us model those values, and not be diverted by those peddling hate.

Issued by Media Office, City of Cape Town, 13 November 2023