Widespread damage after violent protests

Pictures Siphephile Sibanyoni

Chaos erupted on Monday April 30 when about 150 people protested in Vrygrond.

Western Cape SAPS spokesperson Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana, says cases of attempted murder, public violence and malicious damage to property were opened for investigation following the protest.

Officials were forced to close Prince George Drive as some residents protested against eviction after people occupied a vacant piece of land behind Vrygrond.

Protesters continued to burn tyres yesterday on Workers’ Day, Tuesday May 1, demanding land on which to build informal housing.

A resident who wanted to stay anonymous, fearing retribution, said protestors started out at Italy sports field and damaged the building and sports ground at the field by petrol bombing it.

“They then went to the Uitsig area in Vrygrond where they vandalised a shop. They vowed to keep putting up their shacks even after law enforcement throws them town because they want housing,” said the man who has been living in the area for the past 26 years.

He agreed that Vrygrond needs housing but condemned the residents’ destruction and vandalism: “There are a lot of backyard dwellers and people who deserve housing in Vrygrond but I feel that demolishing houses and shops is not the right way to go about it. They’re fighting for the right reasons but they’re doing it the wrong way,”

Community worker Mymoena Scholtz, who has been working in the area for 20 years, agreed that housing is needed in the area.

“Vrygrond is the oldest informal settlement in Cape Town and there have been many meetings with government about it. There have also been many complaints and meetings about services but nothing comes of it,” said Ms Scholtz.

She said organisations are worst affected by the protests because the buildings are usually targeted.

“I am not in agreement with the way these residents are protesting. I will never support violence. I am, however, making a plea to government and politicians to do their work and to listen to the people and try to accommodate them. There is a lot of frustration in the area and the community is angry because of a lack of housing and service and this is how it is boiling over,” said Ms Scholtz.

She said residents continued burning tyres in the area on Workers’ Day, Tuesday May 1.

Sergeant Rwexana said a car was also petrol bombed in Prince George Drive, other cars were stoned and a few buildings, including flats at Marina Da Gama, were petrol bombed.

“A woman was driving in Prince George when she observed a group of children in the road. She later heard a smashing sound and saw flames inside her vehicle. The driver sustained burn wounds and was taken to a medical facility,” said Sergeant Rwexana. A 23-year-old man was arrested for public violence and will appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court once charged.