Category Archives: Chris McMichael

Footsoliders in a social war: the police, crime and inequality in South Africa

Footsoliders in a social war: the police, crime and inequality in South Africa



The South African Police Service and the Public Order War

Please visit the original article at Think Africa Press to follow the hyperlinks in the original version

The South African Police Service and the Public Order War

by Chris McMichael

In early 2010, the South African Police Service (SAPS) began a formal process of remilitarisation. At the time this was depicted as a necessary project of reasserting ‘command and control’ and ‘discipline’ within the service to better enable the police to fight violent criminals.

However, in the last two years the SAPS has become more associated with a war on the wider public. The Independent Police Investigations Directorate has seen a substantial increase of deaths in police custody and reports of abuse and torture by officers. Last year, the killing of protester Andries Tatane brought national attention to the increased lethality of police crowd control tactics. In the province of KwaZulu-Natal this year alone, there has already been the trial of the Cato Manor Organised Crime Unit for extrajudicial killings and the shooting of unarmed demonstrators in Umlazi.

The cumulative effect is to suggest that the SAPS is reverting back to its apartheid role as the brute enforcer of state power.

Last resort or matter of course?

This appears to have reached a new nadir in the killing of 34 miners at the Lonmin Mine in Marikana on August 16. By the time of the shootings, the strike had already led to fatalities with ten people, including two policemen, dying in clashes between members of the government-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the breakaway Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The SAPS have maintained that the shootings only happened after the strikers refused to peacefully dissemble and that lethal force was approved as a last resort as armed strikers attempted to swarm police lines. This has been reiterated by President Jacob Zuma and much of the South African media which has presented the killings as an unavoidable tragedy in which law enforcement was forced to take deplorable measures. Despite this and despite the fact the national police command acknowledged that its officers killed the strikers, the National Prosecuting Authority originally charged the arrested miners with the murder of their colleagues, only dropping the charges and beginning to release the workers today.

Against the narrative of the police using force only as a last resort, however, a growing body of evidence suggests that rather than being an act of self-defence, the killings were part of a premeditated plan to stop the strike. Interviews with miners point to the police using barbed wire to ‘kettle’ the strikers, who were then hunted down and shot as they attempted to escape from police gunfire and teargas, while wounded survivors were run over by armoured vehicles. Additionally, allegations have emerged which suggest that the autopsies of the dead prove that most were killed while fleeing. There is also recent evidence, found by The Daily Maverick, that 14 of the miners may have been murdered by police 300 metres away from the main site of the clashes at close range and with little sign of struggle. Furthermore, evidence of systematic police torture against detained strikers in the last week hardly portrays the SAPS as an institution which only uses violence as a last resort.

According to an official statement from the National Education, Health, and Allied Workers’ Union, “Our police service has adopted and perfected the apartheid tactics and the militarisation of the service, and encouraged the use of force to resolve disputes and conflicts…. all police officers who deal with protests must be taught…disciplined ways of controlling…the protesters because we cannot afford to have a police force that is slaughtering protesters in the new dispensation.”

Echoing this sentiment, security analysts described the shootings as the product of a poor training regime in which public order expertise has been replaced by a focus on maximum force and crime-fighting. Instead of using specialised forms of containment and negotiation, police take the combative stance of aggressively breaking up gatherings and demonstrations. In one particularly bizarre intervention, the former commander of an apartheid riot squad claimed that the police should have used the ‘less’ confrontational tactic of “popping” individual miners with snipers.

Friends and foes

However, in focusing exclusively on the issues of tactics and training, many of the commentaries portray the police as an apolitical organisation whose role is simply to adjudicate in social disputes and who can be made less violent by the correct technocratic fixes. As Jane Duncan argues, this ignores the role of the SAPS as an intrinsically political institution which is in the business of “suppressing dissenting voices, especially (but not exclusively) those outside the [ruling] ANC-SACP-COSATU [African National Congress-South Africa Communist Party-Congress of South African Trade Unions] alliance. The problem predates the remilitarisation of the police, although remilitarisation has undoubtedly intensified it.”

These tactics have ranged from ‘invisible’ forms of repression such as abuse of the legal system to deny permits to demonstrate and heightened surveillance, all the way to the use of live ammunition and torture. This starkly contrasts with how the police treat protests organised from within the governing tripartite alliance. Public disturbances and violence at COSATU and ANC strikes and marches are for the most part treated with kid gloves. A recent strike by Metro Police in Durban, in which officers blockaded roads, assaulted motorists and allegedly threatened to “burn down” the city hall, for example, was met only with warnings of disciplinary action.

However, the authoritarian response to political movements which attempt to organise outside the state is not exclusive to the ANC. The Democratic Alliance party (DA) has exhibited comparable tactics in its governance of the Western Cape, ranging from the violence which accompanied its attempts to evict residents from Hangburg to the almost farcically draconian clampdown of the small “Take back the commons” event in Cape Town.

A war on the poor?

This violence against political dissent can be considered as a front in what many independent social movements are calling the “war on the poor” in which the police, often aided by South Africa’s sprawling private security sector, “are here to drive the poor out of the cities, contain us in the human dumping grounds and repress our struggles.”

In many respects, this repression appears to repeat the work of colonial and apartheid authorities under a new guise. For instance, the Lonmin massacre joins many other historical incidents of the state using force to protect the property and power of South Africa’s mining sector. But while interpreting the recent upsurge in state violence through these historical continuities is inevitable given the horrors of South Africa’s recent past, the remilitarisation of law enforcement has taken place under a very different context than the police state of the apartheid decades.

South Africa is now formally a constitutional democracy even though, as the ‘war on the poor’ demonstrates, the enjoyment of these rights is still circumscribed by class and race. And whereas aggressive crowd control in the apartheid years was the response of a white supremacist state trying to crush insurrection, state violence today emerges from a democratically-elected government attempting to contain localised community protests and revolts. But, like their apartheid predecessors, state officials often rely on paranoid claims about mysterious ‘forces’ provoking violence rather than acknowledging it as the result of frustration around South Africa’s obscene levels of inequality, the failure of government to deliver meaningful socio-economic emancipation to the country’s poor and black majority, and the arrogance and cruelty of the state and big business.

The enemy within

The militarisation of police therefore is not about mobilising to win a protracted war against a specific enemy but is reflective of transnationally-floating concepts of ‘asymmetric war’ in which state forces engage in ‘low-intensity’ ( but still very violent) conflicts with a range of non-state actors from ‘terrorists’ and armed gangs to ‘insurgent’ publics.

This is undergirded by a belief in the tactical interchangeability between fighting a war and domestic policing. The last few years has seen increased integration between the police and the South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF), which has included joint ‘security operations’ and the exchange of equipment. Within the SAPS itself, there has been a focus upon training up paramilitary SWAT-type units which bridge the gap between police and military functions. Two of these units, the Special Task Force and the Tactical Response Team, were on site at Lonmin. The Special Task Force predates the remilitarisation of the police and is considered one of the most elite special units in the world and has conducted training missions with the Special Operations Command of the US military. However, they are trained for hostage and terrorist situations, not crowd dispersal or control. It is notable that miners mistook them for soldiers due to their uniforms.

By contrast, the Tactical Response Teams, which are assigned to precincts throughout the country and which are recognisable by their berets, are trained for both urban and rural combat and ‘advanced crowd management’. These units were intended to be a flagship for the remilitarisation of the SAPS and to simultaneously “hunt down criminals” and maintain public order. However, the various teams have gained a reputation for abusive force. Video evidence captured the Gauteng Tactical Response Team engaged in a military-style campaign after civil unrest in a township near Johannesburg, including torture and door-to-door raids, while the media acquired CCTV footage of response team members attacking bar patrons in the city. The Mpumalanga division has also faced a lawsuit for allegations of severe brutality.

While the government’s militarisation of the service has been presented as a response to the dangers posed by armed criminals and terrorists, the evidence suggests that such units are designed to be rapidly targeted inward.

Keeping the order

National Police Minster Mthethwa has suggested that because of historically-rooted “sensitivities”, South Africa’s population are too sceptical of the police’s ability to implement crowd control with ‘‘the human touch”. He says: “People criticise us for using water cannons. We have introduced those techniques because that’s not your maximum force. But you’ll hear people criticising that, saying these things were used under apartheid”.

Conscious of the publicity fallout from Marikana, the state has gone into public relations overdrive and attempted to create a narrative which exonerates and legitimates the actions of the police, partly through presenting the miners as a deranged mob. But there is little indication that the massacre will cause a rethink on the project of treating ‘public order’ as a new form of warfare.

Mahlala: Umshini Wam

Umshini Wam

by Chris McMichael

“There’ll be civil war, said Johnny. Civil fucking war, that’s what there’ll be. I said, What you think we got now? Not a fucking picture is it?”- GB84, David Peace’s harrowing novel of the 1984-1985 UK Miners’ Strike depicts how the Thatcher government threw the weight of the security state (millions of pounds spent on riot police, intimidation and illegal surveillance) against the National Union of Coal Miners. But as violent as at the Iron Lady’s yearlong campaign against organised labor was, this pales in comparison with the massacre of Marikana on Thursday. In one week the Lonmin strike went from an (admittedly violent) industrial dispute to one of the worst recorded mass killings in South African history with at least 34 miners dead and scores injured. 34…. In the next few days, weeks, months there will be much discussion about the ‘complexities’ of the situation and on whom or what to appropriate blame, but it can’t change the brute fact of that number. In ostensibly peacetime, ostensibly democratic South Africa, the state attempted to ‘disperse’ a volatile gathering by killing 34 of its citizens. This is a figure which wouldn’t be out of place in Syria, a number that would make the old apartheid ministers smile nostalgically.

Any self-respecting modern war pays attention to PR and psychological operations, and the government has already embarked on a massive campaign of rationalisation, dissemination and perception management, which to a large degree has simply been echoed by the media. As Jon Soske points out there has been a great deal of earnest handwringing about ‘complexity’ (inter-union conflicts, rumors of outside agitators), attempts to pathologise the miners (evidence of magic rituals, discussions about the apparently violent culture of rock drillers) and efforts to explain the police actions as the result of either fear or bad training.

All these combine to de-politicise the events, to treat “the miners strike and police repression” as if they were “natural disasters” or “vengeful acts of some incomprehensible god” and to evade simple facts: “the police were there to break a strike; the miners refused to disperse and appear to have tried to defend themselves when attacked; the police killed them with government approval”.

The state’s efforts to turn the shooting into a legitimate case of self-defense has been aided by the circumstances surrounding the strike. Because 10 people had already been killed by Thursday afternoon, including two policeman and two security guards, it has been relatively easy to present the officers as being outnumbered by hordes of deranged miners. And because the police were allegedly fired upon first (the comprehensive evidence of which has yet to be presented), the current narrative holds that they had no choice but to defend themselves in extreme circumstances. Under this moral calculus, the state is apparently synonymous with public safety and even the threat of violence against its security apparatus renders lives forfeit. But despite mawkish sentiment about our ‘men and women in blue’, the police at the site were not simply ordinary officers faced by a malign army waving traditional weapons. Instead they were made up of elite units, including the paramilitary Tactical Response Teams from various precincts around the country and immediately recognisable by their distinctive berets. What the police may have lacked in numbers was certainly made up for in the arsenal at their disposal: armoured personal carriers, horses, helicopters (which according to one report may have sprayed offensive chemical agents), body armour, water cannons, barbed wire barricades, rubber bullets, teargas, R5 Rifles. And there is little indication that police management were interested in finding a resolution to the strike that did not involve a violent clampdown. Before the shootings, national police spokesperson Dennis Adriao claimed that Thursday was “unfortunately D-Day” and that the strike would be broken up by force, while Police Commissioner Phiyega has been candid in acknowledging that officers were allowed to use “maximum force” in “self-defense”. Ominously, on Wednesday it appeared that the police had declared the area as a “security zone”. It is unclear exactly what the official definition of this zone is, but it appears to bear a distinct resemblance to the declaration of “unrest areas” during apartheid era States of Emergency, which gave the police and military carte blanche to restore ‘order’.

As terrible, as unnecessary as the police response to the strike has been, the ferocity of the state’s actions is not completely unexpected. The armed units and equipment marshaled at Marikana were at the cutting edge of the SAPS experiments with re-militarisation: hyper masculine war-talk, new SWAT-type units, “shoot to kill”, “chest out stomach in”. This high-intensity policing has amounted to a war on the poor, from increasingly brutal evictions to the killing of protesters. Moreover, the sheer ruthlessness of the shootings seems to be the logical conclusion of the authoritarian drift of the Zuma years. From the increased power of state intelligence to the SANDF dusting off counter-insurgency tactics from the 1980’s as a guide to handling community protests in the present, it’s clear that there is little the current ANC will not do to ensure its grip on power. Rather than an aberration, this massacre was merely a borderline waiting to be crossed. High intensity policing for a low-intensity democracy.

However, focusing exclusively on the state-centered dimensions of what happened ignores which interests the bullets of the police were defending: Lonmin Plc itself. A company so venal, that in response to the massacre it issued a self-congratulatory press release noting all of its good works in the community. A company so callous that it issues ultimatums demanding that drill operators return to work regardless of what just happened and implies that as the strike was “illegal”, the dead had it coming. A company much like other mining operations throughout the country, and the continent, which extract vast profits from the dangerous jobs of their wage slaves, which wreck environments and communities, which sponsor cheap ‘upliftment’ projects to salve executive consciences, which cower behind the shield of the state when things explode. And this is further buffered by the expediency of corporatist unions like the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), who in a bid to score points over their AMCU rivals, issued a vague statement of regret and hopes that “the perpetrators will be brought to book”. As a responsible member of the mining world, NUM has a tough task having to negotiate between token sentiments for the dead and protecting its shares and investments in various mining houses.

And after the mayhem of Thursday now comes the push for a return to normalcy: commissions will reconcile and exonerate, further disorder will be stopped, investor confidence will be restored. But what is more normal, more quintessentially South African than the tooled up security state racking up a body count for the mineral-energy complex? The 1922 Rand Revolt: aerial bombing and artillery shells in the East Rand. The 1946 miners’ strike: workers forced back into the pits at gunpoint. The general brutality of the compound system created by the colonial and apartheid authorities. 2012: embedded journalists watch the SAPS war party at work in Marikana.

The government is now calling for a national week of mourning and memorial services to “promote a violence free society”. Flags at half-mast will join the ritualistic legal spectacle of inquiries and the attempts by political and business leaders to find evidence of a ‘third force’ and other malignant powers. As if a system where men risk their lives in stygian darkness for resources they can never hope to afford is not violent by nature. Where blood and bones in Marikana are the price for jewelry and record turnovers in Johannesburg, London and Beijing. As if a country in which the ostentation of the middle class and the rich is overlaid on the more consistent reality of millions freezing, sweating and starving in townships, informal settlements and transit camps.

There is no mystery that building a paradise for some on the back of purgatory and hell for others is always on the verge of atrocity, and that it brutalizes and cheapens the lives of both its victims and its managers. And as the events of the last week have shown, it is no mystery that assassination and terror are sometimes needed to maintain this fine state of affairs.

We “invaded” Rondebosch Common…but only the police destroyed the fynbos

There are also articles by Chris McMichael here, Jared Sacks here and Benjamin Fogel here and video footage here and here.

Statement by those who occupied the common
Take Back the Commons Movement
28 January 2012

We “invaded” Rondebosch Common…but only the police destroyed the fynbos

We did our best. We had everything stacked against us.

The might of the South African Police Force, the paranoia of some Rondebosch rate payers, and the arrogance of our protester turned mayor Patricia de Lille.

Legal march and gathering

As a former activist, de Lille should know the law with regards to gatherings. She should already know that she can’t ban a protest without meeting with us first and without credible threats of violence that could not be assuaged through the meeting. This was an illegal act and a violation of our Constitutional rights and the specific procedure that the City is required to follow according to the Gatherings Act.

It was also clearly illegal that they stopped and threatened people who protested in small groups, given that only groups of 15 or more constitute a legal gathering.

Today’s events

The police came for us in Manenberg, in Bishop Lavis, in Kraaifontein, and in Athlone. They came for us in groups of 50, in groups of 20, ten, five and even two. They penned us inside our townships saying we were not welcome in the leafy suburbs. They arrested two of us in Manenberg. Our buses got rerouted back home.

There were police stationed all over Cape Town: in Kraaifontein, all along Klipfontein Rd, in Little Mowbray, and even in Wynberg. There were Caspirs, SAPS, Water Cannons, Law Enforcement, Anti-Land Invasions units, Metro Police and an unknown number of undercover police.

Though thousands of us attempted to march, only a few hundred made it to the Common. Yet this was a huge victory for us. We walked from as far as Bishops Lavis and Mitchell’s Plain to get there. (20+ kilometres!)

And when we arrived and sat peacefully protesting at the entrance to the Common, the police attacked us, manhandled us, and violently arrested us.

As Khayelitsha’s Pastor Xola Skosana said from the march: “I have escaped imprisonment by the skin of my teeth, saved by the clerical shirt and the religious look, I guess. They sprayed some blue substance on our clothes, tempted to say that’s DA Blood. Most of our people were manhandled and thrown into police vans. I have never seen so many police. Now I know you don’t mess with stolen white property, DA and ANC police will crush you! Watch the news, the writing is on the wall. I salute the mothers and young girls from Mitchell’s Plein who looked the men in blue and dared them to arrest them. Everything was blue, it’s truly DA land”.

Using armoured vehicles and police in riot gear, they herded people together in order to arrest them.

In all 40 of us were taken on the Common, and taken from police station to police station until they were finally charged with “public violence” after being pepper sprayed and charged with ‘public violence’.

But then more of us came on to the Common, in groups of two, five and ten. We caught the police by surprise. Eventually they gave in to 70 of us, letting us occupy, until they finally evicted us at 7pm.

14 men and 26 women were held at Mowbray Police Station, and finally released after human rights lawyers were called in. The last were released at approximately 1:30am after more than 7 hours in the cells.

Police violence

Just a few examples of pervasive police brutality yesterday:

  • A young lady filming was smacked while she was being taken into custody (caught on video)
  • An older man got pepper sprayed while he was already in the back of a police van
  • Police assault at least three young ladies before arresting them (caught on video)
  • Police did not wear their name tags so that they could not be identified. However some of us were still able to lay charges thanks to the assistance of some other supportive police officers
  • The city’s Anti-Land Invasions unit was particularly brutal towards us

    The Caspirs destroyed the Common

    Despite unfounded fears by Friends of the Rondebosch Common that we would take over and destroy the fragile ecosystem in the area, we did nothing to hurt the fynbos and other plants. As we promised, we treated the ecosystem with respect.

    Instead, as this video footage shows, SAPS Caspirs were roaming around the Common destroying everything in their path. So much for the police being deployed to protect it!

    What we achieved

  • We reached the Rondebosch Common against all odds.
  • We exposed the fact that the DA led government is just as violent and authoritarian as their ANC counterparts.
  • We were inclusive, racially diverse, and showed hundreds of naysayers that we are peaceful, caring and proud people.
  • We began a city-wide conversation about inequality, segregation, and democracy.

    What we still lack

  • We need to educate one another about our struggles and how they are interlinked.
  • We need to expose those who are profiting and becoming famous out of the struggles of the poor or to push their political agendas.
  • We need to be better organised

    Our principles as a movement

  • Political parties and organisations affiliated with political parties are not welcome in our struggle.
  • We are inclusive. All are welcome in our struggle as individuals and communities. But participants must leave their party affiliations and t-shirts at home
  • We direct our own struggle. No sympathetic organisation is permitted to come and tell us what we are fighting for and how our struggle should be waged – COSATU included.

    Way Forward

    Those of us who were on the Rondebosch Common at 6pm engaged in a great discussion. We came up with the above achievements, failings and principles. We have resolved to move forward today. We were also, with the help of some dedicated lawyers, able to secure the release of 41 of the people arrested. The police are still refusing to release one protester however, possibly because Patricia de Lille has been gunning for him.

    All 42 have been charged with public violence and 41 will appear in Wynberg Magistrates Court on Monday the 30th of January at 9am.

    The planned summit will go ahead, albeit with smaller numbers and a different venue, and we will also be discussing our next plan of action. We will not take this treatment lying down!

    We are all leaders! Forward to the struggle for land, housing, jobs and most of all dignity!

    For more information, please contact:

  • Mike Hoffmeester @ 0797956121 or
  • Yushra Adams @ 0834041279
  • Melvin de Wee @ 0765674918
  • Open Democracy: The Cape Town model, state violence and military urbanism

    The Cape Town model, state violence and military urbanism

    Christopher McMichael, Open Democracy, 5 January 2012

    Lead by the pugnacious Helen Zille, the Democratic Alliance is South Africa’s official opposition party and the governing party of the Western Cape, the only one of nine national provinces not under the control of the ruling ANC. Despite recent successes the party has failed to win substantial support among South Africa’s black majority, due to a widespread perception that, notwithstanding its meretricious rhetoric of an ‘ Open Society’, the party remains a bastion of white privilege. Further scepticism has been created by the parties’ aggressively neoliberal policies which propose to reduce the country’s already partial post-apartheid social welfare system . However, the DA is hoping that the increasingly overt internecine fighting with the ANC will alter South Africa’s political landscape to give it a credible chance of becoming the ruling party by the end of the decade. With the ANC beset by corruption scandals, a growing intolerance for political dissent and the seeming inability to robustly tackle growing levels of social inequality, the DA is attempting to position itself as a pragmatic and efficient government in waiting.

    Central to the strategy is the promotion of the City of Cape Town as an exemplar of good governance. The DA’s Cape Town manifesto promotes the city as beacon of ‘world class services, order and stability’ (and by extension paints ANC run urban areas as decrepit ‘feral cities’). Notably, in a country where inequality has sustained high levels of violent crime, the DA’s Cape Town model offers humanistic sounding injunctions about improving safety through reducing historical legacies of underdevelopment, poverty reduction and ‘’violence prevention through urban upgrading’’. The DA’s official line on urban safety promises to enrol ordinary people in the improvement of the city through social crime reduction strategies: as one memorable slogan in the recent local election campaign noted "a child in sport, is a child out of court". Notably, the DA claims that its policies are linked by a concern for individual freedom and the limitation of abusive state power.

    However, as the last few years have shown much of the self-proclaimed success of this model is in fact contingent on state violence and the perpetuation of a low level social war against the urban poor. Rather than an aberration this betrays a basal authoritarianism within the DA, which views the poor as targets for pacification, containment and ‘warehousing’.

    Take for example the saga of the N2 Gateway housing project. In conjunction with the ANC led National government the city has attempted to move thousands of people from the city to Delft. Despite all the talk about meeting housing ‘’backlogs’’, most activists and researchers argue that the construction of ‘beautiful formal housing opportunities’ between the international airport and the city was a pretext for massive forced removals fast tracked ahead of the 2010 World Cup. Indeed, the quality of these housing opportunities was quickly revealed to people who had been moved from shack settlements into the two Temporary Relocation Areas (TRA) associated with the project. The DA managed Symphony Way TRA ( better know as Blikkiesdorp) greeted its new residents with government built corrugated iron shacks, barbed wired fencing, access control by the South African Police Service (SAPS) and regular patrols by apartheid era Casspier armed personal carriers.

    The residents of the Symphony Way informal settlement were so unenamoured with the prospect of being forced into a glorified refugee camp that they occupied a nearby road in Delft for 21 months, the longest political action of its kind in South African history. And as the city was continually warned by residents this uprooting of communities has seen Blikkiesdorp invaded by gang related violence. With Blikkiesdorp as its premier dumping ground for unwanted and ‘risky’ populations, the ‘world class’ security of the city is often bought at the expense of creating insecurity on the periphery.

    For example, immediately prior to the World Cup last year, hundreds of homeless people were evicted from the areas around the Greenpoint stadium to Blikkiesdorp, a sudden influx of people which seemed to bear all the hallmarks of an orchestrated clean up. The international media had a field day with this story, especially because of the camp's disturbing similarities to the titular zone of exception in the film District 9. However, the DA’s slick press cadres denied that there were any links between this and the upcoming World Cup. Indeed, when conducting research for my PhD, one City spokesperson even told me that they were not even aware of any controversy about the evictions. These denials looked slightly farcical in light of the city's public unveiling of its philanthropic sounding 'Winter Readiness Plan for street people’, which aimed to "rehabilitate" its "participants" by offering vaguely described "activities" which would keep them out of the city bowl. Coincidently, the plan was initiated a month before the World Cup and happened to fit exactly into FIFA imposed by-laws about restricting the visible presence of poverty within host cities. Most tellingly, the plan stressed the importance of ensuring that "our task is to get to people living on the streets before they acquire survival skills on the streets. Once a person survives a winter on the streets it is even more difficult to persuade him to consider getting back home." Using language that wouldn’t be out of place in the control of wild animals, the statement reveals much about the status of the down and out in the eyes of the Cape Town authorities.

    The creation of a far flung prison camp, whose architecture serves as a weaponised form of containment is one thing, but the city considerably upped the ante with last year's attempt to evict the residents of Hangberg. As gruellingly recorded in the Uprising of Hangberg documentary the police were clearly told to prepare for war: without provocation the SAPS opened fire with rubber bullets, destroyed homes, beat up schoolchildren. Several residents lost eyes. This shock and awe campaign was undergird by a sophisticated DA strategy of disinformation, in which the press was assured that the police were ‘liberating’ the area from ‘ drug dealers’ and it was falsely claimed that violence had been initiated by the community.

    One of the most telling scenes in the film is Zille’s petulant response to the community’s anger about this officially legislated brutality. Surrounded by her police praetorian guard she storms off when the understandably furious community refuses to accept a pious lecture about their own best interests. Among activists Zille has become notorious for this kind of behaviour, with radical community groups who deviate from the official agenda set down in meetings accused of undermining ‘development’ through talking ‘politics’. As seen in Hangberg, this rapidly transmutes into the vilification of protest as ‘criminal’. The DA script entails a division between the ‘deserving poor’ who want development and ‘troublemakers’ who make the cardinal sin of demanding to be engaged in the political process.

    The violence at Hangberg was so extreme that containing the negative publicity proved a challenge even for the party’s finely honed techniques of reality management. At a local election meeting this year I saw a normally slick councillor reduced to half-baked evasions when the issue was raised. After mumbling something about a ‘tragic misunderstanding’ his conclusion was "you know how the police get in these situations". While the level of state violence unleashed was perhaps exceptional, this kind of militarised policing is not. As an aspirant ‘World City’, the DA has managed Cape Town by drawing on a transnational repertoire of what Stephen Graham calls the new military urbanism : ‘crowd control’ which aligns ‘non-lethal’ weaponry with hyper aggressive tactics and campaigns of media dissemination. While this is initially tested on groups which the state considers marginal it may quickly become the norm. Indeed, the party’s official security policy reveals an eagerness to rollout such ‘first world security measures’ if in power, from mandatory prison labour to the pre-emptive identification and tracking of ‘potential’ criminals. To this end, Cape Town’s central business district (CBD) has seen the establishment of a CCTV network of Orwellian proportions whose surveillance footprint far exceeds any other city in the country. However, this funnelling of resources into the CBD stands in strong contrast to the epidemic violence in the sprawling Cape Flats to the south east, in which children have exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress comparable to a warzone.

    As the party supporters are quick to point out, ANC dominated councils in other cities have engaged in similar actions, from orchestrated attack on the shack-dwellers' movement, Abahlali base Mjondolo in 2009 to last year's dramatic upsurge in recorded cases of police brutality. Indeed, it can be argued that this is a problem which transcends parties as urban authorities’ efforts to create sanitised world class cities fuses with historical legacies of authoritarianism. Despite the troubling developments, post-apartheid South Africa has a vibrant civil society which continually exposes and challenges these abuses. However, the nature of our recent past means that ordinary South Africans must be continually vigilant about the application of state power, especially when this is glossed in a packaged coat of ‘’international best practise’’.

    Thus, despite the service it pays to liberal platitudes about an open society, the DA’s approach to Cape Town's ‘peripheral’ areas and populations appears to replicate a governmental strategy of disgusting inequality by force and lashing out at society’s most vulnerable. As Jean Pierre de La Porte has put it, the DA’s Cape Town model is divided into a Manichean “world of orderly haves and embarrassing have-nots, mocking the weak has become acceptable, since their own failure to be prudent and follow the rules has brought their every misfortune upon themselves – the vulnerable are dunces’’. Under Zille’s botox hardened smile lies a ready resort to the fists of iron which fortify this divide.