SAPS to blame for Mitchells Plain violence‚ say residents

03 May 2018 - 19:28 By dan meyer, hannah green, nora shelly and Jacqueline Flynn
At least one person has died as protesters clashed in Mitchells Plain on Wednesday night.
At least one person has died as protesters clashed in Mitchells Plain on Wednesday night.
Image: Esa Alexander

Residents of Mitchells Plain have said the blame for Wednesday’s violent protests “should be laid at the door of the South African Police Service (SAPS)”‚ and said the community must unify amid calls for improved service delivery and land redistribution.

This community needs to unite and the poor need to stand together.

Highland Road‚ the scene of the tumult‚ was quiet on Thursday. The remains of a burnt out truck stood as a reminder of the violence that saw police shoot live ammunition at angry protesters‚ leaving two people injured and a 21-year-old dead.

A community meeting was held at Lentegeur police station on Thursday morning‚ where various community leaders from Mitchells Plain and the neighbouring Siqalo township‚ police representatives‚ and regional government were in attendance.

Several Mitchells Plain residents told TimesLIVE that police were “heavy handed” towards them on Wednesday night‚ when tempers flared between Mitchells Plain and Siqalo residents and SAPS.

He said protesters had attacked a petrol station and a mosque had been burned as well.

The parents and family of some of those who had been arrested were also gathered at the police station and called for their relatives to be released “as they were only protecting the community”.

Another resident‚ Ganif Loonat‚ said that the scenes were reminiscent of the 1972 and 1984 protests in the heat of the Apartheid era.

“It was a terrible moment‚ like the darkest days of this country that we worked so hard to achieve democracy for‚” he said. “This community needs to unite and the poor need to stand together.” 

He added that the racial tensions between the neighbouring communities were hindering efforts to deal with gangsterism and service delivery. 

Portland’s Block B resident Anthea Erasmus was among those in the community watch group who went to the front line of the crowd Wednesday night.

“It was chaotic‚” she said. “They never gave warning that they were going to shoot. They just shot.”

Erasmus said the protests were unnecessary and were unfairly preventing other residents from moving around and getting to work.

“I just hope and pray that there will be a solution‚” she said. 

Visibly upset and angry at the police action which he estimated had resulted in between 10 and 15 people from his neighbourhood being arrested‚ resident Mogamed Salig said‚ “The justice system is so unfair.”

“It wasn’t a protest‚ we were just there to show Siqalo that you can’t come in and take our land‚” said Salig.

“This is a humanitarian issue‚ not a racial issue‚” he said.

Businesses in the area were also affected by the protests. 

Protesters threw rocks through the windows and doors of the Caltex station on Highlands Drive. Owner Alauddien Mia said he closed his 24-hour shop early on Wednesday and had to be taken out of the parking lot by police. He re-opened his store at 10am Thursday‚ but said he was worried that further protests would break out when night fell.

The City of Cape Town confirmed that there are no road closures scheduled and that no formal application for a protest have been submitted‚ contrary to widely shared messages on WhatsApp suggesting that tonight would bring with it more disruption. 

The family of the boy who was killed when a taxi‚ under attack from protesters‚ drove into him said that they are in a very difficult place and asked that the media respect their privacy until they release a family statement. 

Salie Barnes‚ chairperson of Portlands Block B‚ was one of two people injured by police‚ reportedly after having formed a line with other members of his watch group between SAPS and the protesters. 

According to his son‚ Ebraheim Barnes‚ he was shot in the knee and underwent surgery today. 

“There was no bullet in his knee‚ apparently his kneecap was split in two. He was in so much pain‚ he couldn’t really speak‚” he said.