Politicians have stepped in following a day and evening of violent conflict in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town that left at least one person dead.
An earlier version of this article was first published by GroundUp
One person died after being knocked down by a taxi last night as residents from the Siqalo informal settlement and neighbouring Mitchells Plain clashed in a day of violence and protest.
There was a large police presence in the area on Thursday morning and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille visited the scene and held meetings with police top brass, as the ANC held a meeting with the communities.
At the time of publication, rumours were circulating that further protests were expected in the evening.
On Wednesday night a large crowd of Mitchells Plain residents had gathered on Highlands Road following protest action by residents of the Siqalo informal settlement and according to reports the taxi sped through the crowd.
This followed a day of clashes that resulted in more than 30 people being arrested. One person was killed on Wednesday evening, and two people suffered gunshot wounds, said Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, media liaison for Western Cape SAPS.
The 30 people arrested for public violence will appear in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Thursday.
SAPS has deployed additional public order policing who will work alongside metro police, said Rwexana. By Thursday morning, Rwexana described the area as “somewhat calmed down”.
During a visit to the area, Premier Zille told eNCA, that she has been kept up to date by MEC’s Dan Plato and Albert Fritz as well as Western Cape provincial police commissioner Major General Khombinkosi Jula.
“I’m just here on the ground to find out what is happening” said Zille.
In a statement released by the ANC ahead of its meeting, the party condemned the violence in the area, and was “disheartened by the racial character of the protests”.
The party blamed the DA in the city and province for failing to address the basic needs of the community and ensure that there was racial harmony in the area and the province.
“DA is in government, and it is time for them to govern both city and province or they must tell the people that they are incapable. The ANC will outline measures to bring solutions to the challenges in both communities,” read the ANC statement.
Inflammatory messages fuelling racial hatred and divisiveness were circulating on social media among communities on Wednesday night.
An anonymous voice note spread on Whatsapp said “os kanni so aangaani nie, os maak almal van die coloureds vrek”( “we can’t go on like this, we will kill all the coloureds” ) while another said “ons sal al daai plastiek hokkies en goedjies van julle in Phillipi en Khayelitsha en oraal wat julle so brand in julle hokkies…. Os sal dit afkom brand” ( “we will take those plastic shacks and stuff of yours in Phillipi and Khayelitsha that you burn in your shack… We will come burn it down.”)
One Mitchells Plain resident who was present on the scene on Wednesday evening but did not want to be identified described the events toDaily Maverick:
“People got a broadcast message on Whatsapp and Facebook to say that they need to meet up at the site (of the protests) at 7pm to stand up for the community, the violence, the ATM being burnt, home robberies, shops being burnt for no reason.”
Between 9pm and 10pm, a taxi sped through the crowd. “People had to jump to get out of the way. People were screaming, they were traumatised.”
The police then told the crowd to leave the scene.
“My cousin, who lives behind Jakes Gerwel Drive, was traumatised when the police shots (rubber bullets) went off.”
Earlier on during the conflict in the day, on one side of Jakes Gerwel Drive in Philippi stood Mitchells Plain residents with golf clubs, baseball bats and axes. Across the road were residents from Siqalo informal settlement holding rocks and golf clubs. In the middle were police in full riot gear.
Siqalo residents came into conflict with their neighbours in Mitchells Plain during a protest that started late on Tuesday night and continued on Wednesday.
The Siqalo residents have been demanding the provision of services from the City of Cape Town. They tipped over freight containers to block the road, and also cut down trees and set fire to them. Police used rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the protesters. Mitchells Plain residents cheered and assisted the police to push the freight cars out of the road. The road was reopened by noon on Wednesday.
Violence between the communities erupted when Mitchells Plain residents confronted the Siqalo protesters over the road closures. Mitchells Plain residents said that during the night, people from Siqalo vandalised an ATM and a garage. A truck and fruit stand were burnt.
“There was always tension,” one Mitchells Plain resident said. “But this is the worst it has ever been.”
“Everybody has the right to live, but they (Siqalo) are going about it totally wrong,” said a resident of Mitchells Plain.
Another said: “We can’t go to work every time they damage the road or our vehicles. Our children can’t go to school.”
Siqalo residents have protested several times this year. They occupied the land in 2012 and have been demanding that the city buy the land, which is privately owned, in order to provide electricity.
“Everything we voice out to them (the city) is ignored,” Siqalo resident Lucas Mabuta said.
“It’s like they don’t recognise us as South Africans. We are human beings and they must maintain our rights.”
“Each time we toyi-toyi, they (police) shoot us,” a Siqalo resident said.
“When we fight back, they shoot us.”
Jakes Gerwel and Highlands drives and Weltevreden, Morgenster and Varkensvlei roads were closed off during the protest yesterday.DM
Additional reporting by Annie Cebulski for GROUNDUP.
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