Protesters face off against police in Vrygrond

One of the disputes centres around Vrygrond minibus taxis not being allowed to park outside Blue Route Mall in Tokai.
One of the disputes centres around Vrygrond minibus taxis not being allowed to park outside Blue Route Mall in Tokai.

Protesters, many of them children, faced off against the police in Vrygrond on Monday, throwing bricks and bottles, and the police firing rubber bullets and tear gas in return.

Protesters burned tyres and rubble at the intersection of Prince George and Vrygrond avenues. Schools were closed and vehicles, including ambulances, were blocked from entering or exiting the suburb. Two other groups burned tyres, chanted and sang in front of Capricorn Primary School, GroundUp reports.

The protesters want law enforcement officials to stop demolishing their shacks in Xakabantu and a solution to the transport problem between Vrygrond and Blue Route Mall in Tokai. At present, taxis from Vrygrond are not allowed to park at the mall and the protesters want the City of Cape Town to facilitate dialogue between mall management and the Vrygrond Development Forum.

They were also demanding the release of three community leaders who were arrested in the morning.

Police spokesperson Mihlali Majikela said a case of public violence had been opened for investigation.

By late afternoon, Malusi Booi, the City's mayoral committee member for human settlements, had agreed to meet with the residents.

Thandiswa Mabona said the protest had been triggered by the demolition of about 50 shacks in Xakabantu on October 3.

"But in June, Booi promised us that there will be no more demolitions."

However, Booi told GroundUp in an email that no such promises were made.

"The court has granted a final order to the City to prevent the illegal occupation of the land in question."

Protesters taunt the police by shaking their buttocks at them. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Mabona said the shack he used to share with his wife and two children was destroyed last week while they were at work. The family has temporarily moved in with his cousin. He lost a month's groceries, a TV, a decoder, clothes and building material.

Sive Mlungwana, a resident from nearby Overcome Heights, said he owned a brick house but was there to support the protesters. He added the shacks that law enforcement officials had demolished cost about R1 000 to R1 500 to build and many families had sacrificed to raise money for building materials.

He also complained there was no fire brigade in the area.

"When there is a fire, it takes them about three hours to reach here. We don't have a police station and high school."

A police officer fires tear gas at protesters. Residents said that the protest started as early as 1am. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

Community leader Mike Khumalo said the demolitions had been going on since 2016.

The land the residents wanted had been identified as a nature reserve without consulting the people who were occupying it, he added.

Robin Carlisle of the Marina Da Gama Association addressed the protesters at Capricorn Primary, calling for peace.

"We are neighbours. We are standing together with the Vrygrond community. Officials should come down and listen to your grievances. We also want a police station, and for the problem of poor transport to be solved."

The protesters responded: "The neighbours should come and toyi-toyi with us."

Booi said the City was "mindful of the acute need for housing opportunities across the metro".

"We are making every effort to address this matter and to provide services within a planned and fair manner wherever possible within the constraints that are being experienced. We condemn in the strongest possible terms any protest action that is not peaceful and that affects the rights of law-abiding residents," he added.

Two children are detained by a police officer. They were released shortly afterwards. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

A woman scolds the children after they were released by the police. She smacked one of them on the back of his head,  telling them they should go home. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

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