Evictions close 10 schools
Violent protests shut N2 again
VIOLENT protests along the N2 in Strand flared up yesterday, resulting in 13 arrests, 10 schools forced to close and chaos on the roads when motorists had to make U-turns on the freeway as residents stoned cars in both directions.
Protesters pelted cars and burned tyres and rubble to block the roadway, with authorities later closing the N2 between Strand and Somerset West. The violence erupted when private security demolished shacks illegally erected on private land, which residents said had prevented children from attending school.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said Public Order Police and Lwandle police attended to the situation in the Lwandle informal settlement in the early hours of yesterday.
“A group of people were protesting after their shacks were demolished; the community members wanted to occupy privately-owned land. Police took action to disperse the crowd. A total of 13 people aged between 20 and 35 were arrested – 12 men and a female. Once they are charged, they will appear in the Strand Magistrate’s Court,” said Rwexana.
By yesterday evening, Rwexana said the area was calm but a strong police presence would remain to monitor the situation. In April, backyarders in Strand began to mark out plots on the vacant land opposite the N2 near Reddam House school. The privately-owned land belongs to Asla Construction and has stood vacant for over a decade, according to residents. Asla had applied for a court interdict against anyone attempting to occupy the land.
Community representative Vuziyalo Madolo vowed residents would keep rebuilding shacks on the land as it had been vacant for a long time and some could not afford their rent.
“We can’t see why Asla should own a piece of land in our location, while we are in need of homes and are overpopulated. We occupied this land since last week and they demolished our homes without a court order. They will need an eviction order if they want to remove us from here. We will fight for our rights to stay in dignified spaces,” Madolo said.
Local councillor Simthembile Mfecane said he was waiting for more details from the landowners and some city officials. “I am aware the structures which were forcefully erected by residents were demolished today and also on Monday,” Mfecane said.
Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson Bronagh Hammond said 10 schools had to be closed, while attendance at two other schools in the area was low.
“It is very unfortunate that schools in the Strand area were disrupted. Pupils and educators could not get to their schools, with either walking, bus or car routes affected. Many use the N2 as a means of passage and were turned back. It is therefore extremely disheartening and we ask that our pupils’ education opportunities not be affected,” said Hammond.
The department also expressed concern for the affected matrics who are writing preliminary exams.
Mayco member for Human Settlements Malusi Booi said the owner of the property arranged for a private security company to remove the illegal structures.
“This is a private matter. There have been invasion attempts at various parcels of land in Strand which are owned privately, including by Asla.
“All law enforcement agencies, including the police, continue to monitor the situation,” said Booi.
He said the city condemned land invasions on both private and city-owned property because these illegal actions consequently impacted on service delivery to other residents.
Asla chief executive Werner Jerling said the company had received no support from the city in removing the structures yesterday and was forced to contract a security company to remove the structures, at a tremendous cost.
“A number of illegal structures were erected in what was clearly a premeditated and orchestrated attempt at illegal land grabbing. We did issue letters demanding the invaders cease and desist and remove their structures and property prior to the removal process,” said Jerling.
He said the interdict was on an interim basis, and the final granting thereof would be argued in the Western Cape High Court on October 17.
Jerling said the company had attempted to hold talks with the invaders in the past but they had, according to him, resorted to threats and violence against the company, its staff and property.
Talks with the city regarding the property-related issues were scheduled for today, Jerling said. He said the company remained committed to seeing this property developed in line with its planning prescripts, which could create muchneeded employment opportunities.
Meanwhile the SA National Roads Agency last week said they had to fork out millions to repair roads damaged by protests across the Western Cape.