Cape Town - Eight people, including a minor, have appeared in court in connection with vandalism that crippled railway services on the central line two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, a packed courtroom at the Khayelitsha Magistrate’s Court was cleared as the matter was initially heard in camera to protect the teenager. Once he was removed and released into the care of his parents, people were allowed into the public gallery. The seven who remained, six men and a woman, all face charges of malicious injury to property and public violence.

The group was arrested after four carriages and a motor coach were reportedly destroyed by fire and overhead electrical equipment and mast poles were damaged on August 14.

Their names were withheld from the media. Only selected court representatives were privy to the information because of sensitivities relating to the minor, according to the clerk of the court.

Emotions ran high during proceedings as the woman in the dock wiped away tears streaming down her face.

In the gallery, some women cried and men sat with solemn expressions as the presiding magistrate told the group to appoint attorneys for their next appearance. Prosecutor Ndakhele Mlungwana asked that the matter be postponed.

At the time of the group’s arrest, the police said the arson attacks came after protesters tried to build shacks on vacant land along Mew Way Road in Zwelitsha, Khayelitsha.

Police said they had tracked down the suspects using CCTV footage.

Outside the court, a large group of supporters huddled together to discuss proceedings.

The matter was postponed to Tuesday with the accused remaining in custody.

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Cape Argus