Protesters torch properties, vehicles and hold councillors hostage

SEVERAL properties and vehicles were torched and two councillors held hostage by an angry crowd after,Picture: Gallo Images

SEVERAL properties and vehicles were torched and two councillors held hostage by an angry crowd after their illegal structures were removed by officials in Vrygrond in Muizenberg yesterday.

The violent protest started on Sunday when a group of people pelted cars with stones and burnt down several properties belonging to councillors after they were removed from a piece of land.

The action continued yesterday along Prince George Drive. The area was cordoned off yesterday with people unable to enter the area which was still tense in the morning. Police said two people were arrested for public violence. The city of Cape Town condemned the violent protest which resulted in damages worth about R7m.

In a statement yesterday, the city’s safety and security spokesperson, Alderman JP Smith said: “The city of Cape Town is alarmed by the acts of violence that played out in Vrygrond near Muizenberg this past weekend.

“The unrest is related to an illegal land occupation in the area. “Just after 10am on Sunday, various city departments participated in the removal of 62 structures that had been erected illegally. “As the operation came to a conclusion, the city enforcement staff were attacked by a crowd of about 100 people who pelted the officers with stones and half-bricks who responded with rubber rounds.”

The city said a few hours later, one of their ward councillors was held hostage during a community meeting and her vehicle was subsequently torched. “She was escorted from the area by the police,” Smith said. During the early hours of yesterday, a group of people targeted the city’s Coastal Park landfill site which is adjacent to Vrygrond. “They set alight three heavy machines, a quad bike and a staff canteen. “Later, in Capricorn Business Park, two premises were set alight,” Smith said. Police said the area had been volatile but was under control late in the afternoon.

Provincial police spokesperson Capt FC van Wyk said: “The situation is under control, but still being monitored.” He confirmed that law enforcement officers demolished illegal structures in Vrygrond.

During this operation, two arrests were effected for public violence. The suspects are due in court this week. Police also confirmed that the Ward 67 councillor arrived on the scene to investigate a possible fire when members of the community confronted the councillor, who was later joined by another councillor.

“The councillors were then intimidated and could not make their way back to their vehicle. The vehicle, a Toyota SUV, was then set alight,” Smith said. Both councillors contacted a member of the Muizenberg SAPS to inform him that they could not get out of the area. The member mobilised SAPS members and entered the area on foot from the rear of Vrygrond, Smith said.

“The councillors were removed by the SAPS members on foot from the volatile area and transported out of Vrygrond.” Both councillors laid complaints at the local police station. “The two councillors were not injured, but were shaken.” Smith said while they were still finalising costs, it would appear that the damage caused to one piece of equipment alone was estimated at about R7.5m.”

“The city will do everything possible to minimise any potential service delivery disruptions as a result of the damage caused. That said, there is absolutely no justification for these acts of violence and destruction.

“We call on anyone with information about those responsible for the malicious damage to property to report it to the city’s Public Emergency Communication Centre.”