Violent protests surge in Cape Town
Smashed windows‚ broken glass and looted shops greeted residents of Mitchells Plain at dawn on Tuesday in the aftermath of a thwarted land invasion that turned violent in Cape Town.
Protesters set alight tyres and fired live ammunition at police in a tense stand-off in the area on Monday. At the weekend residents‚ who said they were fed up with waiting for the city to provide them with proper housing‚ marked out plots and erected structures in Woodlands.
It was a scene that has played out across the city in the past few weeks and often ended in violent confrontation and the temporary closure of major roads.
Cape Town has seen a surge in violent protests in 2018. There have been 145 protest incidents in the first four and a half months of the year compared to 84 during the same period in 2017 – representing a 73% increase in protests.
Police identified 34 conflict areas. In the past week affected areas included Vrygrond‚ Parkwood‚ Bo-Kaap‚ Ocean View‚ Gugulethu‚ Macassar‚ Khayelitsha‚ Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue‚ Milnerton‚ Dunoon and Mitchells Plain.
Mayoral Committee Member for Safety‚ Security and Social Services‚ Jean-Pierre (JP) Smith‚ said on Monday that the city had asked the South African Police Service (SAPS) to establish a priority committee to deal with protests.
“To discourage people from settling on land that is not suitable for human habitation‚ the Anti-land Invasion Unit removes‚ on average‚ 15 000 illegal structures and/or pegs per annum. However‚ in the first four months of 2018‚ that figure is standing at over 26 000‚” he said in a statement.
He said the city had a zero-tolerance approach to attempted land grabs. “Invaded land often jeopardizes emergency and basic service delivery and a variety of future projects to improve the living conditions of residents‚” he said.
“Mostly‚ residents who invade land are the ones who ultimately have to deal with extreme flood‚ fire‚ health and safety risks when settling illegally on land that has not been earmarked for human settlement.
“Vulnerable people are also often asked to pay for ‘plots’ by unscrupulous individuals. These ‘plots’ are in most cases unsuitable for any sort of settlement. Land grabs are also often followed by demands for the installation of underground and other services which could impede the planned upgrade of informal settlements in other areas.”
The city has earmarked more than R850 million for informal settlement upgrades and incremental development programmes‚ excluding the additional funding allocated to formal housing projects‚ he said.
Private owners of open tracts of land were advised to “take all reasonable steps” to protect their property from being invaded.
Smith said that hundreds of police and city law enforcement officials had been deployed to deal with the protests.
“While we have yet to quantify the damage‚ it is safe to say that it runs into tens of millions of rand.”
At least 115 people were arrested during the protest action.
“We respect the right of communities to protest. Legal protests are approved by the City daily … However‚ the destruction of public property and infrastructure and placing the lives of others at risk can never be justified and can never be defended. The looting of businesses during protests amounts to nothing more than simple criminality‚” he added.