Cape Town - Several police officers, including a metro police official who was left bleeding, came under attack from supporters of the Ses’khona People’s Rights movement outside the Bellville Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Police in turn retaliated with rubber bullets, tear gas and a water cannon to disperse the crowd when mayhem broke loose.
There were also reports that two women who had run away from the protest had been struck by a passing car. The two suffered minor injuries.
Hundreds of supporters had gathered outside the court where the movement’s leader Andile Lili and eight other accused were appearing on charges of dumping human waste at the entrance of Cape Town International Airport in June last year.
An Independent Newspapers photographer was also injured and admitted to hospital after he was hit on the head with a stone.
The altercations broke out when Lili came out of the courtroom to address the 500 supporters during the lunch adjournment on the proceedings.
“We want to make sure that this case is thrown out of the court because there is no case against us,” Lili told the crowd.
“If we don’t fight for ourselves, no one is going to fight our battles. We will make sure that on Wednesday there are more of us here.”
Soon after his speech, Lili claimed he was being pushed by a police officer. “Don’t push me, my brother, please,” he shouted.
At the same time, an altercation also erupted between fellow supporter Loyiso Nkohla and a policeman.
The crowd became volatile and stones were flung into the air, igniting the tension.
More altercations followed between police and supporters. When tear gas was fired, lawyers, journalists and security guards had to seek shelter inside the court. Lili and two others were later arrested. Police spokesman Andre Traut confirmed that three people had been arrested. He said they would appear in court on charges of public violence soon.
Earlier in the day, the court heard testimony from three State witnesses who took to the stand in terms of the poo throwing at the airport. Two witnesses were from the airport and one was from the City of Cape Town.
Ahmed Abbas, who works in the maintenance department at the airport, told the court they were in the process of replacing the carpet, where the human waste had been dumped. He said the carpet at the entrance of the airport had been damaged when it was sent for cleaning. Abbas said the costs to replace it could amount to more than R80 000.
“We needed a special company to clean the mat because the company we employed could not clean it. The mat was then removed and taken to hazardous cleaning services. The mat was removed the same day and when it came back, it was damaged,” Abbas said.
He said airlines were not disrupted, but passengers were forced to use another entrance which is about 15m from where the alleged dumping took place.
City official Pierre Maritz who works in the utility services department, came under fire from defence lawyer advocate Pearl Mathibela when he told the court that the city cleaned portable flushed toilets three times a week. The portable toilets were under the spotlight during cross-examination because they were allegedly where the human waste that had been dumped came from.
Maritz told the court the city cleaned these toilets three times a week and residents never complained about using them.
But Mathibela fired back and said the toilets were not cleaned for two months in places such as Barcelona informal settlement in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.
“There was a dispute between the employer and the employee of the company contracted to the city to clean the toilets,” Maritz said.
Maritz said 16 informal settlements were affected.
In her conclusion of her cross-examination Mathibela said the city did not care for the people as it claimed it did.
She said the city violated the human rights of residents there.