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Flames and black smoke filled the air as protesters and police clashed this morning during service delivery protests which brought traffic on Strandfontein Road in Philippi to a standstill.
A tear gas caniser fired by police landed in the Khanya creche on the corner of Strandfontein and Merlin roads, causing children to pass out.
With fighting raging outside, teachers were unable to evacuate the children, and took them to a small kitchen adjacent to the main school building. Tear gas had entered the main building and had caused some of the children to faint, said Vera April, head teacher at the creche.
“Look at these poor babies, it is not right that they should be targeted as well, they have nothing to do with what the protestors are doing outside,” she said.
About 200 protesters from the Phumlani Village and Riemvasmaak informal settlements started burning tyres and garbage from 5.30am today. Traffic lights were damaged and set alight and roads were blockaded.
Police arrived at the scene shortly after the protest began, and 21 people were arrested on charges of public violence.
Eric Balebamye, secretary of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) for Phumlani Village said permission had been obtained for the protest march.
The roads were re-opened at 9am.
Residents in ward 67 said this morning that they had decided at a community meeting on Sunday that they would protest today, after their councillor, Shaun August, failed to arrive to attend the meeting to hear their grievances about the lack of electricity and streetlights.
“We have tried time and time again to get (August) to attend our public meetings, he has never pitched up. So today we decided that enough was enough,” said Celena Mokgethi, who has been living in Phumlani for five years.
“For instance, we complain that we want electricity and streetlights, but all (August) has to say is that it won't happen because we will steal electricity from the power lines. That is not an answer!”
Residents’ other grievances include the fact that there are only a handful of taps in the area, some of which don't work, they say.
“We live in tin shacks, we use the bucket system, it’s all very disgusting,” said Mokgethi.
“We are fed up with the DA. A lot of the people in this area voted for the DA in 2009 believing that it would mean better service delivery, but now we have been disappointed year in and year out,” said Balebamye.
“Mark my words, the people will reinstate the ANC in the Western Cape in 2014.”
August, DA councillor for Ward 67, said allegations that he is trying to dodge public meetings with Sanco, which he said instigated the protest, were “blatant lies”.
“I met with them last night,” he said this morning. “But they came with a list of demands. You don't come to meetings demanding things.”
He said the protests would cost the City around R200 000 in damages
August said the DA was involved with the local community, with contractors hired to clean up the area on a daily basis, but demands to electrify the area cannot be met
“The land does not fall under the City,” he said. “It's provincial property and therefore we cannot electrify it.”
According to August, streetlights have been fixed multiple times but cable theft continues to nullify their efforts.
He added that drainage problems were self-inflicted, with residents using the system for waste disposal.
“We find goat's hooves and intestines in the gutters all the time,” he said. “We need to educate the residents on proper waste disposal.”