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

2018-07-19 16:51
Police on the scene to restore calm to Zwelihle, Hermanus during recent protests. (Christina Pitt/News24)

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

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Police and other law enforcement officials were controlling access out of Zwelihle in Hermanus on Thursday.

"Hey, apartheid," said an elderly man cycling back down Swartdam Road, after police raised the yellow tape to let him through to Zwelihle.

The cluster commander was not immediately available to comment and police at the cordon were not allowed to speak to the media about the measures.

Ndzongana's case postponed

Earlier, Zwelihle Renewal Committee members met to discuss the postponement until Friday of activist Ncobani Ndzongana's malicious damage to property and incitement trial.

He will appear in the Strand Magistrate's Court, instead of the Hermanus Magistrate's Court, for reasons which are not yet clear.

Residents have been protesting since last week, following Ndzongana’s arrest.

"We woke up surrounded by security and police," said a shocked Zwelihle Renewal member Sicelo Gxamesi.

"We are being held hostage.

"They didn't want us to get to court. In fact, they said we were not allowed to go to town today."

He said they were throwing their weight behind Ndzongana because he had led them through campaigns for land, and against xenophobia.

The Zwelihle Renewal Committee was formed after protracted negotiations with government officials to re-examine housing lists, and to provide serviced plots for Zwelihle backyarders to build their own homes.

At the cordon, men stood pulling out their ID books or slips of paper, offering them in an attempt to be allowed to get past the armed police.

A paint-splattered police Nyala idled nearby, with police vans and Overstrand Municipality Law Enforcement vehicles parked further up towards the central town of Hermanus, creating a buffer zone.

Businesses open in CBD

A drone zipped around over the cordon as more police arrived, put on their "riot gear", and lined up at the blockade.

Men passed money to the women and children who were being allowed through, asking them to help with their shopping. Many of the women leaving carried gas bottles and returned carrying bags of food and oranges.

Men who were blocked from leaving the township regrouped further down the rubble-strewn road, and their numbers increased slowly.

Empty cartridge boxes lay discarded in the gutters, following the week's clashes between some residents and officers.

People were reluctant to be interviewed, but a woman with a baby on her back said nobody was able to leave for work.

The CBD was quiet, with many businesses open.

Another cordon was set up near Abagold abalone harvesting company, which is close to the SA National Space Agency's property, and private hospitals.

Schools closed

Meanwhile, Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schafer said it was "unacceptable" that four schools in Zwelihle remained closed for a third day because of the protest action.

About 5 000 pupils from Mount Pleasant, Zwelihle and Lukhanyo primary schools, as well as Qhayiya Secondary School, were affected.

"The violent protest action in the Zwelihle area has also affected learners who travel outside of Zwelihle to neighbouring schools in Hermanus and Kleinmond.

"We are pleading with those involved, who are believed to be a few rogue members of the community, to end the violence and find alternative and constructive ways of communicating their grievances, so that our learners can return safely to their schools and that teaching and learning can continue," Schafer said in a statement.

"At this stage it is not yet clear how many school days will be affected and the extent of individual support that will be required to assist the learners and educators in terms of catching up with the curriculum. Our officials are, in the meantime, working on catch-up plans that will be implemented as soon as learners can return safely to school."

Premises vandalised

Schafer confirmed that Mount Pleasant’s school perimeter fence and some of the school windows and doors had also been vandalised during the protests.

She said she had requested officials to lay charges, in terms of the SA School Act, against those "responsible for the violence", and against those preventing pupils and teachers from attending school.

Cluster commander Brigadier Donovan Heilbron told News24 that Police Minister Bheki Cele was expected to visit the area on Friday.

Read more on:    cape town  |  protests  |  protest action

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