Clouds of tear gas swirled over Botrivier during a day of service delivery protests by residents, during which a 75-year-old man lost a finger after being shot at by police.
Residents’ range of complaints include poor housing, lack of adequate water supply, poor roads, and the fact that jobs go to people from outside the area.
They are also demanding a high school and a school for special needs children be built in the area.
Locals also pointed a finger at ward councillor Pearl Stanfield, alleging she had “done nothing for the Botrivier community”.
More than 800 protesters gathered outside the Botrivier municipal offices from as early as 4am on Monday.
There were more than 15 police vehicles in Botrivier by 2pm, with most stationed on Fontein Street and others outside the town entrance on the N2 and on other roads.
Police fired tear gas on at least three occasions during the 13-hour protest, and arrested one person.
“Police had to use tear gas to disperse the crowd after they blockaded two entrances to the local area with burning tyres and the throwing of stones. One man was arrested for public violence and will appear in the local court tomorrow,” said police spokesman Warrant Officer November Filander.
Arthur Kemp, 75, was hit after one round of tear gas.
“They shot my finger off,” he cried.
“I was just walking and the policeman saw me coming. He aimed directly for me. I didn’t know what was happening. I just looked at my hand and saw my finger was off.”
Louw was rushed to the local clinic where his right hand was bandaged.
During the day protesters threw rocks at the municipal offices and post office .
Part of the post office’s fence was pulled down, as was the gate at the municipal offices.
Sandra Newman, 35, a resident of Fontein Street, said she wanted Stanfield out.
“We hardly see her here, we asked for her and we were told she’s not here. She is here, but she’s hiding.
“When she started here she asked people to vote for her, and she promised us houses and said she’d fix the roads. She has done nothing for the community,” said Newman.
At lunchtime it seemed calm, until more than 500 protesters descended on Fontein Street, heading to the Kammaland Nursery School, singing Sohlala siyinyova iApartheid (“We’ll keep fighting apartheid”). At the school community leaders were in a meeting with Mpho Mogale, executive director in the national Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs.
The group then headed back to Heide Avenue where some protesters threw rocks at police officers.
Police fired tear gas, apparently injuring Louw.
At this point protesters, flinging rocks at the municipal offices, broke windows and set off the alarm, then started a fire in the offices. Police extinguished it.
Community leader James Pheiffer condemned the residents’ vandalism but warned they would not back down.
“We shouldn’t destroy buildings, that is our infrastructure,” he said.
He said residents were fed up with poor service delivery, and lack of communication from the municipality.
“We asked the municipality to arrange someone to meet with us (on Monday) and they told us they couldn’t join us. It is only when Mr Mogale called them (the municipality) to ask them to allow Tania Russouw, town manager, to meet us, that they agreed,” said Pheiffer.
Pheiffer said community leaders wanted to discuss about 31 demands from the community, with the municipality
“We want to come up with a solution to make everyone happy and comfortable.
“Our demands include adequate housing, improvement of streets, electricity, job creation, empowerment, and skills development,” said Pheiffer.
At 4.20pm the meeting with Russouw ended and Mogale gave feedback to residents.
Mogale explained that he had decided to come to Botrivier himself after he too was unable to reach the municipality on Monday upon receiving telephonic complaints from residents.
“We’ve agreed that at the next meeting the ward councillor will have to be present. Also, additional matters have not been covered, and community leaders will complete a final list tonight, to be handed to me by noon tomorrow (on Tuesday),” said Mogale.
Mogale said his department will mediate a meeting between residents and the municipality on Wednesday at 6pm.
“We need an agreement between the two parties on how to address the issues in the community. While the community waits they must remain vigilant in monitoring leadership,” said Mogale.
But residents were not pleased with the feedback.
“We are not happy at all, but for the sake of progress we have accepted, and we will proceed as discussed in themeeting. We need to give them a chance to keep their word,” said Pheiffer.