Chaos erupts in SwellendamComment on this story
Cape Town - The N2 near Swellendam was closed off to traffic after 8 on Thursday night as protesters burned tyres, threw stones, barricaded roads and looted foreign- run shops as they vented their anger over a court order granting the DA interim relief to take back the local municipality.
This followed a hostile takeover by the ANC and ACDP last month.
Protest action flared up late on Wednesday night after word spread that the DA-led municipality had sacked the municipal manager appointed by the ANC.
The riots have since exposed deep social and political divides that residents claim will only unleash more violence.
Police encircled the impoverished suburbs of Railton and Smartie Town on Thursday while other officers stood guard in Swellendam’s central business district, where demonstrating commuters blocked intersections with burning tyres.
Shops were forced to close, while some owned by foreigners were boarded up as looters went on the rampage.
Basic services such as clinics and schools were also forced to close.
Angry protesters only calmed down once word spread that national Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi was expected to visit the area.
By late on Thursday night, however, the minister sent word that he would only be able to visit the area next week.
People who waited the entire afternoon in anticipation of the minister’s visit, became anxious, vowing to go back to the streets until their plight was heard.
Railton community leader Mcgegan Anthony said people were unhappy because of the court ruling which enabled the municipality to fall back into the hands of the DA.
“The protests followed after the DA’s newly reinstated municipal manager unfairly suspended the acting municipal manager, Mervyn Steenkamp, who was appointed by the ANC when they snatched control from the DA,” Anthony said.
He said the majority of people in the Railton community took to the streets and gathered on the N2, blocking the highway and burning tyres. They isolated the town and prevented businesses from opening their doors.
He said the community had vowed to continue the protest action until Steenkamp was reinstated and the municipality was back in the hands of the ANC. Locals said they could no longer tolerate the corrupt ways in which the DA-led council was allowed to run the municipality.
“If you are not white in Swellendam the municipality will overlook you for jobs and services. Our people are nothing to them, they own the town, but they do not own us,” one resident said.
Police spokesman Lieutenant- Colonel Andrè Traut said police were closely monitoring the situation.