Plett protests condemned after night club looted, 3 killed in bus crash

2019-07-05 19:23
A bus which crashed in Plettenberg Bay during protests on Friday (Supplied)

A bus which crashed in Plettenberg Bay during protests on Friday (Supplied)

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The ANC has questioned whether there is a "hidden hand" trying to spark a by-election to undo the Bitou Municipality's coalition council in the Plettenberg Bay area, as protests continue in suburbs along the N2 national route past the popular holiday town. 

"At this moment we have six seats in the council, while the DA has the same number of councillors," said ANC Western Cape secretary Faiez Jacobs on Friday.

"We are governing in Plettenberg Bay, thanks to the support of an independent councillor. What's happening in Plettenberg [Bay] is an attempted power grab, because if we remove our councillor, a by-election must be held," he said. 

"We will not give in to these undemocratic methods."

Protesters have called for the resignation of ANC councillor and Deputy Mayor Sandiso Gcabayi, and DA councillors Dave Swart and Anne Windvogel in their latest demands.

On June 21, Mayor Msimboti Lobese, of the African United Front, addressed the petitioners and residents, but they were not happy.

Lobese is a kingmaker in the council, having been in alliance with the ANC, then the DA, and then back to the ANC following the 2016 local government elections. 

Bitou municipality spokesperson Manfred van Rooyen said demands by protesters kept shifting, with the latest being demands for councillors to resign.

"They were hard and fast, and unequivocal," said Van Rooyen. 

Protests spread

The municipality's position is that removing councillors is beyond its competency.

The DA has reportedly said its own councillors will not resign. 

Van Rooyen said that the protesters' representatives had said: "No no, then we will leave and we are going to fight until the bitter end."

After a bus crash that left three people dead and an attempt at robbing a cash-in-transit van, the Bitou municipality expressed concern over the consequences of the protest.

The N2 in Plettenberg Bay, between the Shell Ultra City and the suburb of Kwanokuthula alongside the highway, was closed for several days due to protests this week.

The protests started in Qolweni, but spread to other suburbs like New Horizons, Green Valley and Kwanokuthula.

Van Rooyen told News24 that the "goal posts shift" at every meeting and, as protests continued, residents were being very badly affected, ranging from daily food delivery vans not getting to some suburbs, and residents of Bossiesgif waiting in vain for the fire brigade to douse shack fires on Friday morning.

The police could provide an escort to the emergency services waiting at the Shell Ultra City to go and put the fire out in time. 

This was after countrywide attacks on paramedics have led to this need for extra security for first responders, and due to the volatility of the protests. 

"We don't even have a drone to go and see what the damage is," said Van Rooyen. 

Municipal offices have been closed until further notice, as more than 50 people were arrested this week and were due to appear in court on charges related to the protests. 

'Bitou no longer considers this to be a protest action'

The bus accident occurred at 03:00 while the Eagle Liner driver was taking a detour off the national route to avoid the protests. Van Rooyen said it was understood that the driver had lost control on a wet bed on the Robberg/Airport road, just after the Harkerville Primary School.

Forty-three injured passengers, with multiple injuries, were taken to various hospitals and 23 other passengers were sheltered at the Plettenberg Bay Community Church. Another bus fetched them to complete their journey. 

An attempted cash-in-transit heist of an SBV vehicle, allegedly by Qolweni protesters in the Plettenberg Bay industrial area, was foiled by police, private security and the SBV team at midday on Thursday. 

"The police, however, was too late to stop the looting and ransacking of a popular local entertainment venue, Spotlight Nightclub; also located in the industrial area," the municipality stated on Facebook. 

The office of the Youth and Sport Development Officer was also looted, ransacked and set alight, and a USave shop in New Horizons and a number of businesses in the Plettenberg Bay industrial area were also looted.

"Finally, Bitou no longer considers this to be a protest action, given the public evidence of widespread crime and lawlessness which includes looting, theft, burglaries, malicious damage to properties and public violence," the municipality said on Facebook. 

Van Rooyen said a June 18 memorandum handed in after a march highlighted grievances which included allegations that some government housing beneficiaries were sub-letting their houses, complaints about the lack of youth and sports development facilities, and concerns over a housing project. 

Grievances brewing since 2018

Western Cape Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development MEC Anton Bredell commissioned a forensic investigation into the municipality following concerns, but it is not under administration.

A number of businesses in the Plettenberg Bay Industrial area were looted last night. Businesses in the area have been badly affected by the protest. One of the managers of the Lookout Deck restaurant, Melissa Mann says their warehouse was completely looted. #PlettProtest pic.twitter.com/bQLeBjb2fX

In the meantime, police have called in additional resources to deal with the criminal element during the protests.

The grievances have been brewing since 2018, over services such as water.

In February, the municipality agreed to a range of demands, which included reintroducing free electricity units to "sub economic" areas, with the caveat that this was going to strip R40m out of its budget.

There have also been demands that electricity be supplied directly from Eskom, instead of via the municipality, but the council said this could only be done if they applied to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa directly.

Read more on:    cape town  |  accidents  |  protests
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