Grabouw burns in tense stand­off

CityPress - - News - BIÉNNE HUISMAN bi­enne.huisman@city­press.co.za

The Western Cape ap­ple-pro­duc­ing ham­let of Grabouw was gripped by vi­o­lence this week fol­low­ing the de­mo­li­tion of 2 000 shacks along the N2 high­way – which was closed by heav­ily armed po­lice of­fi­cers for four days. Smoke clouds bil­lowed over the town, and schools and busi­nesses were shut down as a fight erupted over land be­long­ing to the de­part­ment of pub­lic works.

On Fri­day, Pub­lic Works Min­is­ter Thu­las Nx­esi de­scribed the Grabouw protests as an “un­fold­ing cri­sis”, calling an emer­gency meet­ing with pro­vin­cial and lo­cal govern­ment over the con­tested land.

The sit­u­a­tion re­mained tense as Sir Lowry’s Pass was re­opened to mo­torists trav­el­ling along the N2 to­wards the Eastern Cape on Fri­day morn­ing.

At the time, 300 il­le­gal homes re­mained on the moun­tain­ous land, where they were il­le­gally built a month ago. The newly es­tab­lished com­mu­nity, with res­i­dents be­lieved to be from the Eastern Cape, was called Siyanyanzela (We con­tinue stead­fastly).

Protests started af­ter anti-land in­va­sion au­thor­i­ties started tear­ing down shacks with chain­saws and fir­ing tear gas and rubber bul­lets, as moth­ers with ba­bies strapped on their backs scat­tered and sobbed.

On Tues­day morn­ing, Siyanyanzela pro­test­ers torched Grabouw’s traf­fic de­part­ment – which is si­t­u­ated in the town­ship of Pineview, flank­ing the con­tested ground – caus­ing dam­age es­ti­mated at R2 mil­lion.

Later that day Andile Lili, leader of the Ses’khona Peo­ple’s Rights Move­ment, spoke on be­half of the pro­test­ers, say­ing that they de­manded houses with ba­sic ser­vices such as wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and san­i­ta­tion – even though they can­not af­ford to pay rent.

Speak­ing to City Press in Pineview on Wed­nes­day, Japhta For­tuin (67), a re­tired de­liv­ery driver, said he had been up since 3am with 300 other com­mu­nity mem­bers to guard the lo­cal Groen­berg Sec­ondary School af­ter pro­test­ers threat­ened to burn it down.

The pen­sioner, speak­ing with a long whip curled around his neck, said that two of his grand­chil­dren were en­rolled at Groen­berg. “Our schools have been shut since Tues­day. Pupils were on their way to school, but were forced to turn around. No­body can go to work ei­ther.

“These ‘in­vaders’ told us that they would burn down the school. It is the old­est school in Grabouw. What did the school do to them? What did the traf­fic de­part­ment do to them? They have been pelt­ing our homes in Pineview with rocks,” he protested.

For­tuin added that Grabouw’s in­fra­struc­ture was un­der strain, with a wait­ing list for hous­ing.

Down the road from For­tuin’s home, heav­ily armed po­lice of­fi­cers cor­doned off the street lead­ing through Pineview to­wards the Siyanyanzela set­tle­ment. One of­fi­cer from Paarl said that they had been pa­trolling since 3am.

On Fri­day, Nx­esi called an emer­gency meet­ing with pro­vin­cial MEC for Hu­man Set­tle­ments Bonginkosi Madik­izela and the mayor of Thee­wa­ter­skloof Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, Chris Punt.

He ap­pealed for calm and asked that the com­mu­nity re­frain from re­sort­ing to vi­o­lence. He said that the three govern­ment spheres agreed that the il­le­gal in­va­sion of land could not be con­doned: “The ap­peal to the com­mu­nity is that they cease with their il­le­gal oc­cu­pa­tion of the prop­erty and vol­un­tar­ily va­cate it.”

Nx­esi said an­other meet­ing would be con­vened “within the next few days to find a clear long-term so­lu­tion to the im­passe”.

Spokesper­son for the de­part­ment Thami Mchunu said the Western Cape High Court is­sued an in­ter­dict pre­vent­ing the con­struc­tion of more struc­tures on the 79hectare prop­erty on Fri­day. Ap­par­ently, the land is ear­marked for hous­ing and a school.

Nomzamo Mbatha Zikhona Sod­laka and Amanda du-Pont Terry Pheto and Trevor Stu­ur­man Cur­rent Miss SA Ntan­doyenkosi Kunene

PHOTO: LU­LAMA ZENZILE

IN­CEN­DI­ARY Po­lice fire tear gas and rubber bul­lets in an at­tempt to quell vi­o­lent protests by Grabouw res­i­dents

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