Anglican Church expresses dismay over petrol bombing of historic District Six church

2017-09-28 17:13
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. (Supplied)

Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. (Supplied)

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Cape Town - The Anglican Diocese of Cape Town on Thursday said it was dismayed by the petrol bombing of the historic St Mark's Church in District Six, saying it was a beacon of hope which had played a pivotal role in the struggle for justice and freedom.

Protesting students are thought to be behind the fires at the heritage site, as well as the Cape Peninsula University of Technology's Engineering Building. The blazes were started late on Wednesday afternoon.

"For many years during the apartheid era, St Mark's stood as a beacon of hope to all who were forcibly removed from District Six. When everything around it was destroyed, it stood out amid the rubble as a beacon of resistance, withstanding being demolished by the apartheid government," the office of the Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba said in a statement.

"Today it stands as a heritage site, an island of resistance amidst the towering modern buildings, as a reminder of the painful past. It is therefore disappointing for all associated with St Mark's District Six that a place of worship could come under attack."

The building was partially damaged when it was petrol bombed at about 16:00, after access was gained to the undercroft.

The archbishop's office said the Diocese of Cape Town had, for years, "been in the vanguard of the marginalised of society and feels pained that its property is being targeted".

CPUT acting vice chancellor Chris Nhlapo said while the attacks on university infrastructure were debilitating and affected staff and student morale, the attack on a church "must be viewed as the most heinous attack we have seen in all the protest action to date".

"St Mark's has survived one of the most tragic blights on this country's history - the forced removals in District Six well over 50 years ago. Over the years many staff and students have found refuge there as they were separated from family and friends while pursuing an education. More recently the church elders have been integral in our efforts to build a relationship with the District Six community," he said in a statement.

"We want to apologise to the Anglican community and parishioners of St Mark's, in particular, for these thoughtless and cowardly acts of vandalism by criminals. We will leave no stone unturned to bring the perpetrators to justice and will ask the prosecuting authorities to move swiftly so that the guilty ones can be brought to book and face the full might of the law."

ALSO READ: CPUT lecture theatre targeted by arsonists

Police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk said officers responded to the fire and contacted the fire brigade to extinguish the blaze.

"On their arrival, a 20-year-old suspect was handed over to them by security personnel who caught one of the suspects with a petrol bomb in his possession," he confirmed.

The suspect will appear in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court for arson, once charged.

CPUT spokesperson Lauren Kansley claimed a group of protesting students and insourced workers had set fire to the two buildings.

"While these attacks on CPUT infrastructure is distressing, what we find infinitely more despicable is the heinous actions of setting a church alight," she said.

"We have reports of at least one arrest so far, and campus security continues to work closely with SAPS to bring more of these criminals to book."

The protests are understood to revolve around, among other things, the suspension of four student leaders for their alleged involvement in campus disruptions.

Read more on:    thabo makgoba  |  cape town  |  fires

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