Gugs’ fire depot gutted

2018-07-19 06:01
Gugulethu Fire Station after it was set alight by protesters.PHOTO: SIMAMKELE MBANGA

Gugulethu Fire Station after it was set alight by protesters.PHOTO: SIMAMKELE MBANGA

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The Philippi Development Forum has strongly criticised the actions of shack dwellers who set fire to the Gugulethu Fire Station during a service delivery protest.

A meeting set up between officials from the mayor’s office and leaders of the Ramaphosa informal settlement community, with regards to the land in the area, failed to materialize, leading to the station being gutted by the protesters..

“The actions are barbaric and influenced by criminal elements.”

Monwabisi Mbaliswana, chairman of the forum, said the law must take its course against the perpetrators.

“The community is held ransom by people who have been here for only four months. Residents from Hazeldean and Philippi can’t walk at night because they are scared of the Ramaphosa residents­.

“The worst part is they burned the fire station, whereas they are staying in shacks. When there is a fire in their shacks where they will get help?” asked Mbaliswana, adding that “they can’t demand services and burn essential services”.

Mbaliswana, however, emphasised that as a forum they endorse the land invasion, but not criminality.

“Government must buy the land for the people. The same land that we are talking about has been unused for decades and we don’t know the owners. The only thing we hear is that it is private land. Whose land? And they mustn’t invade the land in the township only. They must also go in the wealthy areas,” he said.

Mbaliswana said they are planning to organise a meeting with all the community stakeholders, including City of Cape Town officials and the Ramaphosa (informal settlement), leadership to find a solution, but didn’t confirmed the date.

Leaders of the group of informal settlement protestors failed to answer City Vision’s calls for comment­.

Ward 80 councillor Nkululeko Mgolombane said the residents were angered by the absence of the officials from the mayor’s office to a meeting that was scheduled for last Wednesday.

“Last Wednesday, residents were supposed to have a meeting with officials from the mayor’s office to give feedback about how far the negotiations have gone.

“There were rumours that the land owners had given the occupiers seven days notice to vacate that land. That is what triggered the protest,” said Mgolombane.

He also reiterated Mbaliswana’s sentiments that there is another upcoming meeting with the City’s officials and other stakeholders­.

JP Smith, the City’s Mayco member for safety, security and social services, said protestors also targeted the Fezeka municipal offices behind the fire station and torched four vehicles and a storeroom at the local electricity depot.

“The building was set alight and firefighters were forced to vacate the premises and remain in the drill yard until Metro Police and Law Enforcement officers had dispersed the protestors,” said Smith.

He said “it will take several days to ascertain the cost of the damage wrought in this callous attack, but on the face of it, they are potentially looking at as much as a million rand”.

“The money will have to be diverted from another community project as the repair of the fire station is a priority.

“The engine bay doors, watchroom and security entrance gate were destroyed in the incident. A security vehicle parked at the entrance to the fire station was torched too,” he said.

Smith said the Gugulethu Fire Station is closed until further notice. “Our fire crews will be based at the Mitchell’s Plain Fire Station and will dispatch from there. What this means is that the actions of a few have put the lives of thousands of residents at risk, as there will now be a delay in the response times to any fire call outs in the Gugulethu area,” he concluded. “It doesn’t matter how legitimate the cause, we cannot tolerate wanton destruction.”

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