VIOLENCE, LAND AND SERVICE PROTESTS

Schools, buses and trucks in flames — Cape Town forced to suspend services

By Vincent Cruywagen 23 July 2020

A flare-up of protests over access to land and services in Cape Town has included petrol bombings and the torching of a bus. The City has suspended some services. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Nic Bothma)

Controversial community activist and former poo-thrower Loyiso Nkohla denies his supporters have anything to do with violent protests that have wreaked havoc in different parts of the province.

On Thursday, Loyiso Nkohla told Maverick Citizen that as an activist he condemned outbreaks of violence in Cape Town and has asked police to act against the perpetrators.

A minibus transporting security guards from TSU Protection Services home after finishing their shift, was petrol-bombed on the corner of Old Faure Road and Spine Road on Wednesday 22 July.

Corne Vermeulen, operations manager at TSU, said the incident happened about 7.30pm. A petrol bomb was hurled into the van and exploded, but luckily workers were able to escape. Three sustained slight injuries.

In the past 48 hours, the fire service has been attacked, including petrol-bombings in Khayelitsha and Mfuleni. 

As a result of this targeting of services, the City of Cape Town has temporarily withdrawn the Dial-A-Ride service and electricity and refuse collection in parts of Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Joe Slovo and Kraaifontein.

A Golden Arrow bus was torched on Wednesday and Metrorail vehicles were also targeted. Schools have not been spared with two in the Du Noon/Joe Slovo area damaged in the past few days.

On Monday night, a classroom and the library at Marconi Beam Primary School were set alight and the school hall at Sinenjongo High School was torched the following day.

The flare-up of protests, Nkohla said, could be attributed to the demand for land.

Activists were also demanding that individuals receive a site with basic services while waiting for a government subsidy. Many have been on the waiting list for years and those protesting come from areas where the City has made promises, Nkola said.

He denied that his supporters were behind the violent protests.

“This violence is affecting people. We don’t support it, we support the genuine grievances emanating from service delivery demands. We have asked the police to act (against) any violence”, he said.

A spokesperson for Golden Arrow Bus Services Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said it was unfortunate that buses had been targeted during the unrest. A bus was gutted on Wednesday. A new bus costs about R2.3-million, she said.

“Aside from the obvious financial implications, we are most concerned by the effects on our passengers and drivers. We are offering an essential service and should be able to do so safely and without having to constantly deploy teams to assess whether areas are accessible or not,” Dyke-Beyer said.

She pointed out that the volatile situation inconvenienced passengers and required “a great deal of resources to manage on a daily basis”.

She emphasised that the bus service should be able to operate without fear of violence, intimidation or vandalism.

The financial strain placed on Golden Arrow was also compounded by a severe drop in passenger numbers due to Covid-19, which cost Golden Arrow in excess of R1-million a month.

The City’s Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, condemned the abuse and harassment faced by City employees when providing much-needed services to residents. 

Reacting to the damage to the two schools, Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the “disgraceful acts of thuggery” would cause further harm to children’s education when teaching and learning were already difficult.

“We cannot say at this point when the damaged buildings will be replaced. The department’s budget has just been slashed again, and other schools and areas have been waiting patiently for a long time to receive schools and halls.”

Schools that had been destroyed would not be prioritised over others she said.

Metrorail spokesperson Riana Scott confirmed on Wednesday that vehicles belonging to three private companies transporting employees were stoned during protests in Khayelitsha.

Several employees had minor injuries, she said. Alternative plans had been made for collecting and dropping off employees at safe points.

The City’s Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, condemned the abuse and harassment faced by City employees when providing much-needed services to residents. 

“The City condemns these cowardly attacks on our staff. The Fire and Rescue Service is there to assist communities. The ongoing attacks on staff could seriously impact on service delivery to our most vulnerable communities, as crews will not be entering flashpoint areas without police escorts, which will slow down response times to fires and other emergencies,” Smith said.

Mayoral Committee member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City, with law enforcement agencies, was doing its best to “thwart” violence. 

He said, however, that the violence appeared to be “mostly large-scale, well planned, well-funded and orchestrated invasions.”

“This also comes in the wake of the court case involving the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC), represented by the pro land invasion Legal Resource Centre. 

“It seeks to interdict the City from conducting any and all anti-land invasions. The SAHRC is further asking the court to void all existing court orders protecting specific sites from invasion,” Booi said.

The EFF has joined the SAHRC matter as a third party.

Meanwhile, 26 suspects have been arrested for a series of acts of public violence in Kraaifontein. In one incident on 22 July, a group broke into two liquor stores in Voortrekker Road. Detectives are probing the incidents and more charges could be added, said police spokesperson Novela Potelwa.

Police have meanwhile reinforced deployments with crowd control capacity to identified hotspots in an effort to stem the tide of violent protest and destruction of property. MC

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