Westbury, Ennerdale protests inspire solidarity
● What started out as a protest by Westbury residents over the violent reign of criminals is morphing into a far bigger revolt, with disaffected coloured communities across Gauteng joining in.
By Friday, the Gauteng #Shutdown campaign had gained momentum, with residents of Johannesburg’s Ennerdale suburb blockading roads with burning tyres and rubble, and residents of Pretoria’s Eersterus threatening to join in solidarity.
Four months ago Eersterus was ravaged by four days of violent protests over crime, drug gangs and unemployment. The violence left one person dead and scores injured.
Earlier this week thousands of impoverished Westbury residents clashed with police after Heather Petersen was shot dead in the crossfire between two rival gangs. Her niece was wounded in the shooting.
The communities which are threatening to join the campaign are wracked by high levels of gang-related crime, poverty and unemployment. Organisers are calling on people to stay away from work.
Police across the province are on standby over fears that the violence could spread.
Attorney Stanley Malematja of The Right to Protest Project, based at Wits Centre for Applied Legal Studies, said communities such as those protesting felt disenfranchised and abandoned by the government.
“When the police minister visited Westbury, other coloured communities were bound to join in the #Shutdown protest. Coloured communities have felt that for too long they have been left out of the country’s growth, employment opportunities and the right to safety and security.”
Malematja said it was no coincidence that anger was being expressed in all of these communities. “They try the peaceful route, but are almost always ignored by officials.”
Ricardo Terry, Eersterus Action Organisation chairman, said they felt solidarity with Westbury and Ennerdale residents.
“We will be meeting with the Gauteng Shutdown committee to discuss the way forward. Four months ago we had running street battles with the police in which a resident was killed and others injured. We have repeatedly tried to raise our concerns over the lack of proper policing, unemployment and poor service delivery, but to no avail. We had no choice but to protest.”
Police arrested eight people for murder and drug-related charges on Friday.
Four were arrested for the murder of 31year-old Bradley Saul, who was killed in July. Saul had been accused of killing the son of one of the arrested suspects.