It seemed obvious that the ANC’s blessing of the land expropriation situation was eventually going to encourage chaos, but who knew it would go down in the seaside town of Hermanus.
Ward 4 Councillor Lindile Ntsabo of the Overberg District Municipality says community members who are backyard dwellers had seen a post on Facebook last Wednesday.
They then immediately occupied land owned by the municipality.
“They were told that they can put their structures up, they can grab the land. There is land that is available. But you cannot get the information who told them. If you ask they cannot tell you.”
Soon, the Red Ants were called to intervene, which is when things turned ugly:
“Hermanus police are investigating a public violence case subsequent to an unrest that occurred in Zwelihle. According to information, about 500 people were involved in the unrest. They burnt tyres and looted computers from municipality premises.”
The group, who are demanding better housing, then “marched to the municipal office demanding that they should have access to water and electricity on their plots,” reports Times LIVE:
The Hermanus community policing forum (CPF) said human rights commissioner Chris Nissen negotiated with some of the protest leaders to get them to meet Overstrand mayor Dudley Coetzee‚ police and some councillors to facilitate a process to bring stability and peace back to the town.
Then yesterday, following a morning of violence, the group of protesters were in a stand-off with the police, forcing the closure of Hermanus Primary School and High School, explained News24:
Protesters destroyed a number of buildings on Monday – including the satellite police station in Zwelihle‚ a library and municipal buildings – as running battles between police and protesters escalated.
There were also acts of xenophobia:
Last night, a meeting between protesting residents‚ the Overstrand Municipality and the police was called into session in attempt to address the situation, reports EWN:
Ntsabo says angry community members met with the mayor on Monday night to discuss their grievances.
“They are not receiving the land which they occupied illegally. There is another possibility that they’ll receive something. This will be announced by the mayor.”
Police spokesman Brigadier Donovan Heilbron said on Monday evening that the protesters had dispersed after the evening meeting.
But by then, the damage was done – below, the recycling plant on fire:
And a look at more of the violence:
As a result of the protests, around 600 people were displaced from Zwelihle, and are now staying at Sandbaai Hall in Hermanus:
Pieter van Aswegen‚ a concerned local resident‚ said that due to a situation where people had been intimidated‚ displaced and fleeing their homes in Zwelihle township‚ the community had come out in support of those staying in the hall.
“I went to [a local supermarket] to buy some supplies to donate and found that people were there buying food‚ nappies‚ soft drinks and baby food to assist the residents who were staying at Sandbaai.”
“After the meeting‚ the protesters went ahead and looted.”
Van Aswegen said there was rumour that this protest was driven by people who were not local residents.
“Our people will not go and destroy clinics and would not break down a recycling centre‚ which brings a source of income to the community‚” he said.
Heilbron said that 26 people had been arrested for public violence and that there had been no deaths as a result of the protests.
Interesting how this conversation around land has fuelled xenophobia – looks like the Somalians and others might actually be the first to be displaced.
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