By Zaahidah Meyer
Damage to City council owned infrastructure by protesters will run into well over R100 million. That’s according to the City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, after the Gugulethu fire station was set alight in protest action in the early hours of Thursday morning and firefighters were forced to evacuate the premises. The fire ensued after an attempted land invasion was blocked by residents of the Cyril Ramaphosa informal settlement. The engine bay doors, security doors, watch room, gate, security car and four additional vehicles were torched.
The latest incident is one of many attacks on public infrastructure in protest action since January this year. Smith has slammed the use of violence by protesters, saying huge sums of money would now need to be spent fixing the damage – money that could have been used for other community projects.
Smith referred to the vandalism of the Parkwood housing rental office, the torching of city owned vehicles, the damaging of libraries and the trashing of a community centre over the past six months of protests.
“We are burning through a lot of money replacing things that worked fine until people decided to smash it because they are angry,” said Smith.
Residents in surrounding areas will now have to contact the Mitchells Plain fire station if need arises but there’d now be a delay of 10 extra minutes, he said.
Lansdowne fire station has also been put on alert for possible evacuation.
While he understood the right to protest and would even protect it, Smith said he would never support a violent protest.
He believes reasoning behind this is due to it being election season and that there is definitely a political element fueling protester’s actions.
Smith added that the City of Cape Town will be providing trauma counselling to the affected firefighters.
Anyone with information on the incident is urged to come forward or contact the call centre on 021 480 7700.