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Vehicles overturned as Hout Bay protest turns into 'sheer criminality'

03 July 2017 - 11:08 By Petru Saal
Riot cops monitor protesters in Hout Bay on Monday, 03 July 2017.
Riot cops monitor protesters in Hout Bay on Monday, 03 July 2017.
Image: Ruvan Boshoff

Protests in Hout Bay intensified on Monday as disgruntled community members overturned vehicles and damaged a mobile kitchen. Officials were able to avert an attack on an old-age home.

JP Smith‚ the City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security‚ said: “The situation has become very serious and it is clear that it is no longer a matter of community protests but it has now entered the realm of sheer criminality.”

Smith said rioters were moving along streets smashing windows and overturning cars. Law enforcement officials were able to head off protesters targeting an old age home.

“The city’s law enforcement and disaster management mobile units‚ which were used as kitchens for the victims of the fire on the sports field‚ have been completely destroyed. The city has called on SAPS’s senior provincial leadership to intervene urgently and to ensure that arrests are made‚” said Smith.

The city council and the police had sent water cannons to the area in a bid to defuse protests which broke out on Saturday when shacks from the temporary settlement area built for victims of the Imizamo Yethu fire in March were used to block the only two roads into the town.

“Every available city traffic law enforcement and metro police resource has been dispatched to Hout Bay to attempt to contain the situation and the provincial public order policing unit from SAPS are also on the scene‚” said Smith.

“The city calls on the South African police to ensure that the video footage that has been collected of protesters engaging in public violence and damaging state and private property is used to effect arrests and to ensure that such individuals are prosecuted. Their behaviour is simply unacceptable and cannot be tolerated in a democratic dispensation.”

The initial protest stemmed from delays in resettling thousands of residents whose shacks were destroyed in Imizamo Yethu. Some affected residents moved back to the fire-ravaged area‚ prompting a court order last month to have them removed.

City authorities want to redevelop the Imizamo Yethu site before allowing people back‚ to make it more fire-safe‚ but residents are frustrated by the delay. The trigger for Saturday’s protest was news that those removed in terms of the court order were being supplied with electricity‚ whereas those in the temporary village were not.

Mayoral committee member Brett Herron said it appeared the protest stemmed from a misunderstanding about the court process. “We will be talking to the community if we can to explain the process that has unfolded‚” he said‚ adding that the council was obliged to provide electricity to those affected by the court process.

The remaining residents would also be supplied with electricity once they had been moved back into new informal structures in Imizamo Yethu where a process of “super-blocking” was under way. The fire-ravaged site was being developed “in a more planned fashion‚ with road tracks and footpaths‚ so that we can get services in”‚ Herron said.

Better access to the site would allow officials to more easily combat future shack fires.

The city council is also busy with a parallel process to provide formal housing for affected residents at a separate site within the township area.