Western Cape police brought in reinforcements on Wednesday as looting, arson and violence escalated in Cape Town after land invasion attempts.
Premier Alan Winde and several MECs condemned what they called a small group of violent protesters, and Cape Town mayor Dan Plato pleaded for stronger national government support.
Provincial police spokesperson Brig Novela Potelwa said police stations and riot police were kept busy on Tuesday quelling sporadic protests in Khayelitsha, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Delft, Joe Slovo in Milnerton, and Laingsville in St Helena Bay.
She said the reinforcements were for crowd control capacity as mobs involved in public violence destroyed property, barricaded roads, looted a liquor store and stoned vehicles.
In Joe Slovo and Dunoon, both in Milnerton, a library and a classroom were destroyed at Marconi Bean Primary School after they were set on fire.
On Monday night, Sinenjongo High School’s hall was also set on fire. A refuse removal truck was set alight there and police registered cases of arson, said Potelwa.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer condemned the incidents as “disgraceful acts of thuggery” which did more harm to a schooling system already under stress.
“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,” she said.
“We will not prioritise schools that are destroyed over others that have been waiting patiently for facilities. This destruction must stop.”
A bus was also set alight in Eerste River on Wednesday morning, according to Potelwa.
Police reacted to reports of a break-in, looting and damage to property.
“Eleven suspects were arrested last night in the area for malicious damage to property, burglary and looting a liquor store after they were found inside the store with liquor. An ATM in the area was also damaged,” said Potelwa. “The suspects are expected to appear in the Blue Downs magistrate’s court soon.
“Scenes where vehicles and buildings were damaged by fire and vandalised played out in various areas yesterday. Some of the protests in areas such as Khayelitsha, Mfuleni and Kraaifontein had started on Sunday. Indications are that the protests are linked to service delivery issues.
“The police appeal to communities to abide by the law. Destruction of property and violent behaviour will be dealt with harshly. Forces on the ground are monitoring the situation for flare-ups.”
Incidents mentioned by Winde included:
- Four emergency services teams came under attack on Monday. One of the teams had a patient in their ambulance at the time;
- A Dial-A-Ride vehicle which provides transport to disabled people was stoned, injuring passengers and damaging the vehicle;
- Firefighters on their way to a fire in Khayelitsha were surrounded and their vehicle was stoned. The firefighters were not seriously injured but damage left the vehicle needing repairs;
- After attacks on staff, Eskom had withdrawn services to certain parts of Khayelitsha and Mfuleni; and
- A Golden Arrow bus was petrol-bombed in Mfuleni early on Wednesday.
Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo pleaded with communities not to attack emergency services staff after an attack on paramedic on Tuesday.
“I strongly condemn the senseless attack of EMS staff that happened in Khayelitsha yesterday. It is critical for our people to realise that safety of communities is directly linked to the safety of our health personnel,” she said. “Sadly, these attacks often occur in extremely vulnerable communities where emergency services are needed most. I urge all residents to protect EMS personnel while they are rendering this very important service.
“This cannot be solely left in the hands of the police. It will take a whole of society approach to create a safe environment that will enable people to access the health care they need.”
Winde said the land invasions and protests “appeared to be co-ordinated efforts by a select few to profit from these attacks and invasions”.
“The Western Cape department of human settlements is committed to assisting those with housing needs, who have followed the procedures to register on our housing database,” he said. “We will not allow those who are breaking the law and inciting violence to jump the housing queue ahead of people who have legitimate claims, and who have followed all the correct processes.”
Winde claimed the violence was being stoked by a small group of people and called on the police and police minister Bheki Cele to “treat these actions with the seriousness they deserve”.
Human settlements MEC Tertius Simmers said the land invaders were attempting to jump the housing queue, and community safety MEC Albert Fritz said the attacks were politically motivated.
“It is evident that a smaller group of inciters is leading these protests and pretending to speak for the masses. In doing so, they are preying on the most vulnerable in society who will suffer the from the infrastructure and services lost,” said Fritz.