Protesters in Imizamo Yethu claim they were promised housing my Cape Town Mayor Patricia De Lille. Picture: ANA Pictures

Cape Town - Mayor Patricia de Lille addressed hundreds of residents of Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, which has been rocked by violent community protests since the weekend.

Police said four male suspects had been arrested for public violence and are due to make a court appearance once they have been charged. 

The protest is over the lack of housing since the devastating fire in March, with the community accusing the City of Cape Town of dragging its feet with the reblocking of the informal settlement and delaying the construction of formal housing. 

De Lille said the City remained committed to rebuilding Imizamo Yethu. 

"We are going to speed up the reblocking," De Lille said among a heavy police presence. "We can understand people are very frustrated, but as we have said to you in the past, we are trying to rebuild and reblock people living on the mountain. And it has been difficult. But we are going to make sure that the reblocking takes place in Dontse Yakhe, Shooting Range and Madiba Square at the same time."

The Western Cape government's Emergency Medical Services treated a man in Hout Bay for a gunshot wound to the chest and transported him to Victoria Hospital in Wynberg in a critical but stable condition. 

Provincial police, along with law enforcement agencies within the City of Cape Town, had committed additional resources and activated a Provincial Joint and Intelligence Structure (ProvJoints) in the wake of the violent protests in Imizamo Yethu which started on Saturday morning. 

Police spokesperson Novela Potelwa said: "This morning tensions flared up again necessitating the closure of routes in and out of Hout Bay. Public order and Metro police are hard at work trying to quell the situation. Law enforcement and Disaster Management caravans, a garage, an old-age home and vehicles were damaged  during the protests."

She said a number of arson and malicious damage to property cases had been opened and detectives were investigating. 

Residents from Imizamo Yethu claim they were promised formal housing by De Lille following a devastating fire in March which left thousands of residents homeless, and say they are tired of waiting.

In response to the violent protests, De Lille said that there were now some residents who were resorting to criminal behaviour and that the city could not condone this. 

"The City is doing all it can to communicate to the community leadership so that progress can continue in the area, however, we cannot be held to ransom by the anarchy caused by some residents," De Lille said. 

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith said earlier: "The situation in Hout Bay has become very serious and it is clear it's no longer a matter of community protest but has now entered the realm of sheer criminality. Rioters have moved into side streets...and smashed cars and windows. An attack on the Kronendal Old Age Home was narrowly averted. 

"The City's law enforcement and disaster management mobile units, which were used as kitchens for the victims of the fire on the sports field has been completely destroyed " Smith said. 

He said the City had deployed every available resource from traffic, law enforcement, and metro police officer to the scene, while police had deployed the provincial public order policing unit to Hout Bay.

"The City calls on the South African Police to please ensure that the video footage that has been collected of protesters engaging in public violence and damaging state and private property is used to effect arrests and to ensure that such individuals are prosecuted," said Smith.

Meanwhile, police spokesman Andre Traut said the public order policing unit members would be joined by their colleagues from the Stabilisation Unit and Visible Police "to maintain law and order and to police the situation effectively".

Traut urged residents to steer clear of the protest action.

"Our deployments will remain in the area until we are satisfied that the threat to the area has been alleviated. We urge the community to exercise caution in the close proximity of the group of protesters, who are estimated at 100 at this time."

Cape Argus and African News Agency