Cape Town - City officials are still picking through the debris, but on Wednesday’s protests in Langa will probably cost a fortune in damaged infrastructure and man hours.
There was mayhem on the streets of the township after protesters looted shops, burnt tires and toppled over street lights and electricity poles.
The area was essentially shut down by the angry mob, which pelted police, paramedics, commuters and journalists with bricks and glass bottles.
Residents on their way to work were chased by the mob and some were even beaten. Crowds had to be dispersed with rubber bullets and Nyalas.
Only by 5pm on Wednesday was anyone allowed to safely enter the neighbourhood. Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andre Traut said there had been no further violence on Thursday morning.
Metrorail spokeswoman Riana Scott said Metrorail services had also resumed. They were cancelled after protesters stoned incoming trains and lit fires on the track on Wednesday morning.
But there was still tension as police patrolled the streets scattered with dirt and smouldering tires.
“We’ve had people in there since on Wednesday afternoon and they are assessing the damage,” said Mayoral Committee member for Safety and Security JP Smith.
He said the protests would cost the city a fortune, not only in repairs, but in overtime too. “We had to pull in every spare law enforcement officer we could find depriving other communities of security.
“The local police station was under siege so we had no other choice but to bring in more of officers to help out.”
In an incident, a motorist was trying to turn on to Bhunga Avenue, navigating smouldering piles of plastic bins, when protesters surrounded the car and began throwing stones at it.
The driver was just one of many commuters who found themselves in the firing line.
While it was originally dubbed a “housing protest” it morphed throughout the day, with some residents chanting for the victims of the Marikana massacre, others for better living conditions.
There was only one consensus: no one from Langa was going to be allowed to leave the area to go to work. Those who tried were harassed and some even attacked.
“There was a man who they dragged from the train station and hit with sjamboks,” said a resident taking refuge in her garage.
She, like everyone else, wanted to remain anonymous. She was scared of the protesters.
One group torched a local bakery, another looted shops around the taxi rank. They were carrying makeshift weapons, from broken bottles and stones to rudimentary axes.
They scattered when police Nyalas sporadically rumbled down the road and regrouped when the coast was clear.
They pulled down street lights which smashed into the road.
Metro EMS spokesman Robert Daniels said that despite numerous calls to help patients in the township, they were unable to go inside.
However, by lunchtime, they were able to respond to some of the more serious cases. “For the rest, such as high blood pressure patients, they will have to wait until it’s safe for us to go back in.”
At the time of going to print, no one had been injured during the protests.
Traut said 20 people had been arrested for public violence. At 3pm, the roads into the township were still closed and guarded by a strong police contingent. By 5pm on Wednesday, Traut said, the situation was under control.
Elsewhere, on the key arterial route, Baden Powell Drive, burning tyres blocked morning-commuter traffic between the N2 and Mew Way.
Twin barricades were set up by residents of Makhaza in Khayelitsha. By 10.30am on Wednesday police had dispersed the crowds.