Tensions are flaring up in Masiphumelele after a solid week of protests; residents having initially taken to the streets to voice their displeasure at the state of policing in the area. Things have escalated in recent days, with protesters allegedly burning tires, containers, busses, as well as private and police owned motor vehicles.
The scenes have seemingly struck a nerve with the City of Cape Town given the scale of protests in the area. Mayco member for Safety and Security, Alderman JP Smith said that while residents had the right in terms of the law to air their grievances via protest, subject to applying for a permit from the City, this could not excuse the unlawful damaging of property and supposed “hooliganism” seen in recent days.
“This has been particularly problematic. We saw some more vehicles being burned out a couple of days ago and we have had all our available staff there. Last night when the shootings started in Athlone I tried to find extra vehicles to respond, but all the vehicles were stuck in Masiplumelele,” he noted.
According to Smith, residents were losing sight of their original cause, the violence now being fuelled by the arrest of prominent community leader, Lubabalo Willem, who is accused of leading a spate of mob justice incidents. Residents have demanded his unconditional release, but authorities are adamant he will appear in court as planned.
Both private and public peace meetings were held on Tuesday to try and quell the violence, but Smith said the public discourse proved to be far more hostile than expected.
“Many of the people are saying they reserve the right to engage in further violence if the people responsible for driving it are not released on bail,” he stated, adding that such terms could not be agreed to.
While sympathetic to the cause and the concerns of residents, Smith reiterated that this could not serve as an excuse for the damaging of property and assaulting of police officers.
Willem is alleged to have led several attacks against suspected criminals in the area. Despite the residents’ ultimatum, he is likely to appear in court on Friday. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)