Cape Town - The sight of scores of children among protesters in Grabouw on Monday has prompted Education MEC Debbie Schäfer to lay criminal charges against the leadership, for allegedly preventing children from going to school for a second day.
The N2 was closed for a second day on Tuesday as stone-throwing continued, and Schäfer said on Tuesday pupils and teachers from five schools had been affected. She was expected to lay the charges in terms of the SA Schools Act, which she said criminalised any person who “prevents a learner (from) compulsory attendance (of school)”.
There was no evidence, however, stone-throwing and the erection of barricades was linked to on Monday’s protest leaders.
Leader John Michel spoke out early on Monday against the violence and urged police to act against the perpetrators.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant Raldene Atson said last night it had been reported to police a number of shops in Melrose Place and Xola Naledi, owned by foreigners, had been looted by protesters on Monday evening.
“We warned the people and shop owners (earlier and over the weekend) to be aware of what’s happening,” Atson said.
Today began as on Monday had begun and ended, with the Houwhoek Pass and a 25km length of the N2 through the Elgin Valley shut to traffic.
Both days, the first projectiles were hurled before dawn on the stretch of road between the first and second turn-offs to Grabouw.
On Monday, long queues of vehicles sat jammed at the foot of Sir Lowry’s Pass
. On Tuesday, however, the pass remained open.
Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant last night slammed the interruption to traffic on the key route.
“I’ve been in touch with the mayor of Theewaterskloof and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato. Obviously, the police have some problems of their own right now - and one is understanding of that.
“But it’s completely unacceptable to us that this matter is not dealt with effectively by the police. Citizens have a right to protest but they have no right to take rights away from other citizens. Burning tyres, pouring oil and stoning on one of the main economic routes in the Western Cape is completely unacceptable.”
At mid-morning, police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to disperse more than 1 000 people protesting over service delivery at the Grabouw municipal offices. The protesters began assembling in Old Cape Road and marched a few hundred metres to the municipal offices in Pineview to hand over a memorandum of grievances.
The public order policing unit watched the march closely and Theewaterskloof mayor Chris Punt arrived from Caledon to receive the memorandum.
After being addressed by several community leaders, the crowd left, filtering back into the surrounding suburbs, hurling rocks at police, who gave chase. Soon several rioters emerged at the N2 highway and began stoning vehicles.
The protest is the second in recent weeks.
Residents were not satisfied with the response to a list of grievances handed to deputy mayor Mlulami Tshaka and town manager Anton Liebenberg on August 20.
John Michels, leader of the Grabouw Civics Organisation, warned the N2 would be blocked every weekend until their demands were met.
Grievances included lack of housing, poor, expensive electricity, and bad roads.
Margaret le Roux, secretary of the civics, said some people had been waiting more than 20 years for houses.
“We are also not satisfied with the way the houses are allocated,” she said. “We have a list of people that need houses but the municipality has a different list to ours.”
The Theewaterskloof municipality said it did not provide electricity to Grabouw. The town’s electricity came directly from Eskom.
“We do have a road maintenance programme to keep roads in a proper state but we will look at the conditions of the specific roads mentioned in the memorandum of grievances,” it said.
“The municipality receives a very limited budget from the national Housing Department, of which the bulk is spent on housing for Grabouw.”
The ANC and the SACP have pledged support for the protesters. Andile Lili, expelled former Cape Town councillor and leader of the Ses’Khona Peoples Movement, confirmed Ses’Khona members had helped organise on Monday’s protest.