Poor will suffer most from violent attacks on state services - Western Cape government

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  • Widespread attacks on state services in poor areas continue.
  • Long list of provincial ministers all slam the violence impacting their departments' ability to deliver services.
  • Police reinforcing its numbers to cope with escalating violence, province reports.

The destruction of infrastructure and attacks on crucial state services will hurt the poor and vulnerable hardest.

This was the message from the Western Cape government on Wednesday, as multiple attacks continued against a range of government service providers - from firefighters to paramedics.

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Albert Fritz damned the violence as "politically-motivated" and announced urgent top-level meetings with police leadership.

In the light of ongoing land grabs, Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers, also demanded that those legitimately in housing queues should be assisted first, saying: "We have clear criteria of whom we'll assist and they include: the elderly, persons with disabilities, backyard dwellers (the Western Cape is the first province in the country to formally do this) and those longest on the waiting list (15 years and longer)."

READ | News24 journalist attacked during unrest in Cape Town

In a joint statement on Wednesday, the premier and various provincial ministers condemned the attacks "which have resulted in injuries to our citizens, damage to property, and which will impact government's ability to provide key services to our most vulnerable residents going forward".

"Many of these land invasions and protests appear to be coordinated efforts by a select few to profit from these attacks and invasions.

Violence

"The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements is committed to assisting those with housing needs, who have followed the procedures to register on our housing database. We will not allow those who are breaking the law and inciting violence to jump the housing queue ahead of people who have legitimate claims, and who have followed all the correct processes."

The Western Cape government said the violent attacks had impacted crucial services to "some of our most vulnerable residents" and all "law-abiding citizens".

The acts of violence included: 

The provincial government said: "The reality is that these destructive acts of violence undermine the poorest in our province. It cannot be tolerated.

"Indeed, we cannot allow a small group of people to interfere with our ability to provide healthcare, emergency and other services to our people, and to interfere with the right to an education for the children of this province.

READ | We will not prioritise Western Cape schools that are destroyed, says MEC

"All spheres of government currently face extreme budget pressures and the cost to repair the damage caused during these protests will further impact service delivery. Those most impacted by these actions will undoubtedly be the poor." 

In Wednesday's statement by the Western Cape government, the following provincial ministers added their condemnation of the violence:

Simmers, Human Settlements: 

  • I condemn these illegal activities in the strongest possible terms. We will not assist or engage those who choose to illegally grab public and or private land, particularly since their aim is to jump the Housing Demand Database (HDD) queue. The criminality will not be condoned.
  • I appeal to residents who have a genuine housing need to register on the HDD and if they're already registered to either verify or update their details. Residents should also use the relevant and well-established platforms such as ward councillors and ward committees to raise their concerns.
  • Residents should also use the relevant and well-established platforms such as the Project Steering Committees (PSCs), ward councillors and ward committees to raise their concerns.
  • We have clear criteria of whom we’ll assist and they include: the elderly, persons with disabilities, backyard dwellers (the Western Cape is the first province in the country to formally do this) and those longest on the waiting list (15 years and longer).

Fritz, Community Safety:

  • It is apparent that these attacks are politically motivated, and I call on this senseless politicking to cease. It is evident that a smaller group of inciters are leading these protests and pretending to speak for the masses. In doing so, they are preying on the plight of the most vulnerable in society who will suffer the infrastructure and services lost due to protest action.
  • I have been informed that SAPS in the Western Cape have reinforced deployments with crowd control capacity. Public order police and SAPS station officials have been active in Khayelithsa, Mfuleni, Kraaifontein, Delft, Joe Slovo and Laingsville to restore calm.
  • I call on SAPS and the SANDF to play a more proactive role in responding to these attacks. In addition, I call on residents to abide by the law. These are attacks on state property and should be treated with the utmost seriousness.

Anton Bredell, Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning:

  • The escalation in attacks is concerning. Yesterday firefighters from the City of Cape Town were stoned in their fire engine and others were intimidated by local communities. This is not a new thing and other emergency responders have also been targeted. We are urging our communities to work with our emergency responders. 
  • These men and women are civil servants and are out there to protect and help the vulnerable and those in need. Attacking them puts at risk the lives of the very communities that are harbouring these vandals.

Debbie Schafer, Education:

  • I condemn in the strongest possible terms the wanton destruction of two schools in Dunoon/Joe Slovo area in the past two days. A classroom and the library at Marconi Bean Primary school were burned on Monday night and the school hall at Sinenjongo High School was set alight last night. These disgraceful acts of thuggery will do even more harm to our children's education at a time when teaching and learning is already difficult.
  • We cannot say at this point when the damaged buildings, will be replaced. The Department’s budget has just been slashed again, and other schools and areas have been waiting patiently for a long time to receive schools and halls. We will not prioritise schools that are destroyed over others that have been waiting patiently for facilities. This destruction must stop.

Nomafrench Mbombo, Health:

  • I strongly condemn the senseless attack of EMS staff that happened in Khayelitsha yesterday. It is critical for our people to realise that safety of communities is directly linked to the safety of our health personnel.
  • Sadly, these attacks often occur in extremely vulnerable communities where emergency services are needed most. I urge all residents to protect EMS personnel while they are rendering this very important service. This cannot be solely left in the hands of the Police. It will take a whole of society approach to create a safe environment that will enable people to access the healthcare they need.

Sharna Fernandez, Social Development:

  • Yesterday one of government’s "Dial-A-Ride" vehicles was destroyed during violent protests in Khayelitsha.
  • One of the biggest obstacles that many persons with mobility impairments often encounter, is being able to drive a vehicle or being able to be transported in a vehicle that accommodates their disability.
  • Such violent, thuggish behaviour aimed at people with disabilities is despicable, to say the least. This is indeed a heartbreaking situation that we find ourselves in, as the availability of such specialised services are few and far between. 
  • I further call for the perpetrators of such hideous acts of violence to be held to account.

Bonginkosi Madikizela, Transport:

  • The affected transport modes are delivering critical services to the most vulnerable people in our society. 
  • These actions are pure thuggery which must be condemned in the strongest terms. Law enforcement must intensify its efforts to deal with the people who are causing destruction.

 

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