July 13, 2024

Media Statement: Cathcart Illegal Protesting – SAPS Fails to Protect the Innocent

We are heading towards 39 days of illegal protesting riddled with violence and destruction that has gone unpunished and uncontrolled by a failing police force who seems to be more concerned with the rights of the criminals rather than safeguarding the innocent and law-abiding community of Cathcart.

This sad reality begs the question: At what point will those appointed to protect and serve step up to their duties and enforce law and order to a once peaceful community? Or will the community need to take matters into their own hands to restore peace?

This is a situation we should all aim to avoid and should never have to be placed on the table as point of discussion. To avoid this Agri Eastern Cape calls on the SAPS in the Eastern Cape to take control of the unsanctioned, illegal, destructive, and violent protesting taking place in the Cathcart.

On the 9th of February 2024 Agri Eastern Cape was alerted to the first acts of protesting in the Cathcart area. These initial protests were in response to the Department of Health allegedly planning on closing the health care facility in Cathcart. This rumour was later proven to be untrue. At this point all further protesting should have come to an end. Unfortunately, this is not the reality of what has played out in Cathcart over the past few weeks.

It is important to note that Agri Eastern Cape understands and respects that all citizens have the right to protest and voice their opinions as outlined in section 17 of the Constitution of South Africa. However, it is clear in the Constitution that this right refers to the right to peaceful protesting.

“Everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions”

However, this is not the case for Cathcart. As vehicles of residents of Cathcart have been stoned for simply driving on a public road, trucks have been torched, school children have been prevented from attending classes and the elderly have not been permitted to seek medical attention as roads have been blocked and barricaded with rocks and debris.

To compound this atrocity even further, the SAPS have failed to act to protect the rights, livelihoods, and safety of the law-abiding citizens of this rural community. The local SAPS have stood idly by on multiple occasions on the 9th, and again on the 13th, 23rd, 26th and 27th of February 2024.

The reasonable man would assume that after the rights of your citizens were jeopardised the first time, that the authorities charged with the responsibility to protect those citizens would deploy all available measures to ensure no further harm or rights infringements was incurred by those citizens. Alas, the SAPS has once again stood idly by and allowed these acts of violence and disruption and destruction to continue completely unchecked.

Agri Eastern Cape is in possession of multiple photographs from the protesting in Cathcart over the past weeks and it is the view of this organisation that these images clearly demonstrate that the rule of law is not being upheld and that the town of Cathcart has devolved into a lawless community under the control of common criminals who should be arrested for violating the laws of this country.

It would seem that the SAPS are either incompetent of controlling the situation, too afraid of the criminal element to act, or more concerned with the political allegiance during an election year to perform their duties on behalf of the innocent majority who are being intimidated by the unlawful acts of the criminal underbelly minority in the Cathcart community.

Numerous pleas for assistance by Agri Eastern Cape and its appointed representatives through all official channels have fallen on deaf ears and gone unanswered. On the 26th of February Agri Eastern Cape submitted a formal request to Lieutenant General Mene, the SAPS Provincial Commissioner for the Eastern Cape, calling for assistance for the rural community of Cathcart who was and still is in desperate need of additional SAPS resources to restore peace in the area.

While additional resources were deployed for a short period of time, this exercise seems to have been fruitless and only done as an attempt to once again silence the innocent majority with theatrics rather than truly attempting to resolve the issue at hand and root out the criminals responsible.

Up to the date of this statement, General Mene has failed to acknowledge the letter sent by Agri Eastern Cape to her offices and after a short, face value, exercise in Cathcart the SAPS have withdrawn their additional resources without solving the problem resulting in further criminal behaviour taking place in Cathcart. The latest modus operandi is that the “protesters” hide alongside the national roads passing through Cathcart and maliciously and violently stone and vandalise vehicles passing through the area. This ranges from trucks transporting goods to market to families traveling through in passenger vehicles.

Agri Eastern Cape has received further reports from its Members and the community calling for assistance on the 9th, 15th, and 18th of March and yet again the SAPS remains unseen, unaware, and unable to get the situation under control.

It would appear that with a lack of control by law enforcement the criminals have decided to make a sport of the vandalism and destruction of state- and privately-owned property as there is no clear reason for the unrest and no achievable goal for either side. The only resolution is for the SAPS to step up and restore order to the community of Cathcart.

While Agri Eastern Cape is committed to upholding the rule of law and operating within these laws unwaveringly and at all times, it also needs to be said that criminal behaviour is a rational choice born of free will and in order to prevent crime from taking place the punishment must be greater than the reward of committing such crimes.

Agri Eastern Cape is again calling on the SAPS to deploy the necessary resources to Cathcart and use the appropriate measures to ensure that peace is restored and to educate the criminals that lawlessness and destruction have no place in a free society and will be dealt with in a manner that suits the crime.

Peter Cloete: Agri Eastern Cape President.