Masiphumelele is calm for now but residents are planning to march to Simon’s Town Magistrates' Court on Friday when a community leader will appear in court again on charges of murder, attempted murder, public violence and assault. This follows a mob justice attack in September in which a man who had allegedly raped a 24-year-old woman was killed. By BERNARD CHIGUVARE for GROUNDUP.
An uneasy calm has returned to Masiphumelele, but residents say they are preparing further protests on Friday, when a community leader charged with murder is due to appear in court.
Residents have been protesting over last week’s arrest of community leader Lubabalo Vellem. Vellem appeared in Simon’s Town Magistrates’ Court on 26 October on charges of murder, attempted murder, public violence and assault. This follows a mob justice attack in September in which a man who had allegedly raped a 24-year-old woman was killed.
The case has been postponed to Friday, 30 October.
Some residents say that Vellem, who has been involved in calls for better policing in Masiphumelele, was not the only one involved in the murder and that it is wrong that he has been singled out.
They have vowed to continue their protests on Friday when he will appear in court again.
Community leader Dumisani Ntlapho said residents would stay away from work on Friday to march from Masiphumelele to Simon’s Town. “Even if the police stop us we will force our way to the court,” he said. The march is due to begin at 8am.
Last week residents filled about 10 taxis to go to the Wynberg Police Station where Vellem was believed to be being held, to ask why he had been arrested. At a meeting back in Masiphumelele that evening, they decided to protest until he was released. On Tuesday schools and the clinic were closed. At the main entrance the remains of burnt tyres and wood could be seen at the side of the road. A small group of young boys watched police standing at the entrance. Groups of people stood in the road and in front of the spaza shops.
Police said on Wednesday that the situation was calm.
This week residents burned seven cars at a Zimbabwean-owned garage outside Masiphumelele in the Lekkerwater area. They also burned containers full of refrigerators, television sets and foodstuffs being stored for transport to Zimbabwe on the premises.
It seems the residents thought the business was owned by whites.
The owner, who did not want to be named, said he was surprised to have been targeted. Residents had been saying at meetings that they would target white-owned property , to attract attention from the authorities.
Three Zimbabweans who are involved in the shipment of goods back to Zimbabwe said they did not know why the residents had behaved as they had. “The community has done us a big blow in our business. We actually do not know whether we are going to make a comeback in this business,” they said.
At a meeting with South African Police Service cluster commander Brigadier Riaan Booysen and the Democratic Alliance’s chief whip in the provincial legislature, Mark Wiley, in the community hall on Tuesday night, residents expressed anger that they had not been allowed to visit Vellem since his arrest. Some also complained that the police had confiscated his cellphone.
Some residents reiterated the call to protesters not to destroy Masiphumelele property, whether owned by South Africans or “our African brothers”, but rather to target white-owned property. That would attract attention, they said, because “whites will speak out”.
They complained that some of the police officers brought in over the last few weeks had been going door-to-door asking residents to strip so they could check for rubber bullet wounds. This was in order to find out who had taken part in the protest last Friday, when police had used rubber bullets, they said. DM
Photo: Burnt cars belonging to an immigrant from Zimbabwe in Masiphumelele. (Photo by Bernard Chiguvare.)