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I can never ask police to water spray people - Zulu on Sassa incident

Lindiwe Zulu and Sassa officials briefed the committee after being called to account for the lengthy queues and violent incidents that unfolded at the agency’s offices this past week.

FILE: Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu visiting Sassa offices in Gugulethu on 14 January 2021. Picture: Kaylynn Palm/Eyewitness News.

CAPE TOWN - Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu has hit back at reports that she took cover in a police casspir while a water cannon was used against elderly and disabled people queuing outside Sassa’s Bellville office, in the Western Cape, last Friday.

Zulu told Parliament’s social development portfolio committee that she was portrayed as a “prima donna” after the incident, but she said the sequence of events as reported was incorrect.

Zulu and Sassa officials briefed the committee after being called to account for the lengthy queues and violent incidents that unfolded at the agency’s offices this past week.

She said she went to the Bellville office with the agency’s CEO Busisiwe Memela and tried to urge people to keep their distance in the long queue.

She added she approached the police casspir to borrow a loudhailer.

“The first thing we did, we never ran to the police or anybody. We had to deal with the people right there in the queues, speak to them… and request they keep their distance. I only got on to the casspir simply because we did not have a loudhailer.”

Zulu said she then entered the office for a meeting and later, a press briefing, at which point she realised that police were discharging water cannon on the people queuing.

“It was when I was inside the offices of Sassa that I realised the police were spraying. I, this very Lindiwe Zulu, asked the police to stop what they were doing because I did not think it was a good thing for them to do.

“So, I am clarifying publicly that this Lindiwe Zulu can never, ever ask the police to spray the people – worst of all, people with vulnerabilities, who are in wheelchairs, who are with children – I can never be found in a space like that.”

Zulu said the South African Human Rights Commission and the City of Cape Town were dealing with the matter, while she had been in contact with Police Minister Bheki Cele over the incident.

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