Looting, bullets and a volley of angry words as protests ravage Cape Town

11 April 2019 - 17:37 By Aron Hyman
Red Ants monitor would-be land invaders in Lwandle near Strand on April 11 2019. Alan Winde, the DA's premier candidate for the province, says political leaders are stoking the violence and should be arrested.
Red Ants monitor would-be land invaders in Lwandle near Strand on April 11 2019. Alan Winde, the DA's premier candidate for the province, says political leaders are stoking the violence and should be arrested.
Image: Aron Hyman

Political figures alleged to be behind Thursday’s "Khayelitsha shutdown" should be arrested, says Western Cape community safety MEC Alan Winde.

Winde, who is also the DA's premier candidate for the province, made the remarks next to a municipality-owned field in Lwandle, in the Strand.

Behind him, a line of Red Ants eviction officers dressed in full riot gear stood with shotguns 40m from protesters who were gathering around a lone shack.

A large land invasion along the N2 between Somerset West and Strand coincided with mass protests in Khayelitsha which started in the early hours of Thursday.

Protesters in Khayelitsha said their grievances were over large water bills which they claim residents started receiving after the City of Cape Town installed new water meters.

Zandile, a resident of Harare, in Khayelitsha, said water and electricity bills were unaffordable for elderly people living on state pensions.

"Our elders get R1,700 per month in pension. Then they get a R500 water bill. The government takes the money right back," she said.

Another resident said sentiments expressed by political leaders such as trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi stoked the protests.

"They started in the West Rand in Gauteng and now they are here. Vavi said that everyone who has issues with service delivery should go and protest. That is how these things are happening," he said.

Protesters, however, claimed they were not inspired by the Alexandra shutdown and that their complaints had a long history and had now reached boiling point.

"We are not going to vote! No one must come and ask us to vote for them, they don’t listen to us," screamed a protester during a confrontation with riot police in Harare.

In Lwandle, however, the situation was a lot more hostile and by Thursday afternoon the N2 had still not been reopened. Across the highway in Sir Lowry's Pass Village, protesters felled trees with chainsaws to block the road.

Hundreds of poles planted in the ground demarcated areas of the municipality field in Lwandle where people attempted to carve out a piece of land for themselves.

Winde said the land belonged to the municipality and that police and the Red Ants were trying to bring the situation under control so building material could be removed.

Security companies were also deployed to premises in the industrial area next to the township to protect their clients' assets. This followed the looting of a foreign-owned warehouse on Wednesday night.

Somali shop owners who arrived at Lwandle police station on Thursday afternoon claimed 58 shops had been looted.

Lwandle remained a no-go zone. Cars were being stoned and police were pushed back several times from some of the main roads into the township.

Among rubber bullet casings lying at a place in the road where police tried to make a stand were 9mm brass casings, a sign that police felt threatened enough to use their service pistols.

There were no reports of deaths on Thursday afternoon, according to Winde, but he said the situation remained volatile.

"If we have a look at a report on how often our public order police are called in, they were called in 300 times since January. And we specifically saw in the past month protests really starting to escalate and now, in the first few days of this month, we can see much further escalation," he said.

Protests affected the economy and many people were prevented from going to work. "We have invasions of provincial land, city land and Sanral land. Here in Lwandle it's a big land issue.

"It starts with policy uncertainty at national level and with the election now, quite frankly, we need to start with those political leaders stoking this up. It is totally unacceptable.

"My request now to the police is that we need to go in there and arrest them now."

He said there was video and photographic footage of the political leaders - but he would not name them.