Police deny blocking Zwelihle residents' access to Hermanus CBD

2018-07-19 18:52
Police on the scene to restore calm to Zwelihle, Hermanus. (File, Christina Pitt/News24)

Police on the scene to restore calm to Zwelihle, Hermanus. (File, Christina Pitt/News24)

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Police have denied cordoning off Zwelihle to control black residents' access to the Hermanus CBD on Thursday.

Strips of police tape blocked access along a main exit point and cones and police cars were placed at through routes.

"The only thing we are doing, we are just containing movement in and out of the area to stabilise the area first because the national minister [of police Bheki Cele] is visiting Zwelihle tomorrow (Friday)," Cluster commander Brigadier Donovan Heilbron told News24.

Speaking on the sidelines of a small outdoor meeting near the Harbour Master's office, Heilbron said it was never a decision by the SA Police Service to cordon off Zwelihle.

"We cannot restrict people's movements," he said.

News24 observed police turning mostly men back when they attempted to walk to the CBD over the double line of yellow tape set up on Swartdam Road. Police officers and vehicles were also parked nearby and a Nyala was idling. Only a few men were allowed to pass after negotiating with the police, but women were allowed through.

Heilbron said these measures were only in place for the morning when activist Gcobani Ndzongana was due in the Hermanus Magistrate's Court on charges of malicious damage to property and incitement. His arrest sparked the latest wave of unrest.

At the last court appearances during previous protests over land, crowds swelled along Harmony Road near the court.

When pressed, Heilbron said he would check with his officers to find out whether access was still being restricted in the afternoon.

Earlier, Zwelihle Community Renewal activist Sicelo Gxamesi told News24 they woke up to find Zwelihle surrounded by police.

"We are being held hostage," he said.

"They said we were not allowed to go to town today."

READ: 'We are being held hostage' - Zwelihle residents as cops block them from entering Hermanus

The CBD itself was quiet and most businesses were open.

Ndzongana's fellow Zwelihle Renewal Committee members want him released but his case was postponed and he is to appear in the Strand Magistrate's Court on the same day as Cele's visit.

Heilbron said 44 other people had also been arrested and their court dates were still being arranged.

Gxamesi was part of the meeting with Heilbron at the harbour and said there would be a community briefing in Zwelihle on Thursday night.

Heilbron said part of the meeting was to arrange for medics to go to Zwelihle to help people who had not been able to get medical attention due to the standoff.

ALSO READ: Zwelihle residents struggle to access emergency services during Hermanus protests

He could not confirm any reported deaths directly related to the latest clashes. He said one woman had died "of natural causes".

However, all this information would become clearer soon, he said.

Heilbron added that they were just looking after the welfare of Zwelihle's residents.

Read more on:    saps  |  cape town  |  protests

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