Evic­tions close 10 schools

Vi­o­lent protests shut N2 again

Cape Times - - FRONT PAGE - DO­MINIC ADRIAANSE OKUHLE HLATI [email protected]

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.

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