CHAOS: Gugulethu backyarders apparently lobbed stones on the roads, stoned passing cars and set fire to the post office in a violent land protest. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - “It's a South African thing (that) if you are poor and want to be heard you have to damage government services in your area.”

So says Ludwe Joka, a Gugulethu backyarder involved in the land invasion protests.

Joka’s views followed a statement released by mayor Patricia de Lille condemning the destruction of properties in protests.

De Lille said: “We cannot tolerate or accept any justification for the destruction of property during protest action. We respect everyone’s right to protests but the violence and destruction cannot be condoned.”

Also read: Cape Town mayor condemns violent land and housing protests

More than a week ago, frustrated backyarders occupied four vacant lots in Gugulethu, barricaded roads with burnt tyres, torched a car in front of a popular braai place, Mzoli’s, and damaged the premises.

The same protest action happened in Philippi. City mayco member for safety and security and social services, JP Smith, said that in the early hours of the morning the Gugulethu post office was set alight and severely damaged, as were dustbins outside the police station in the area.

Smith said the City has increased its deployment level in the area.

The mayor said she was concerned about the impact that the protests had on residents travelling to work and school.

“Residents of Gugulethu and Philippi should not be held hostage by some individuals who are hell-bent on lawlessness.

“I also want to place it on record that the City will not tolerate land invasions in the city. Land invasions are illegal and pose fire, health and flood risks.”

But Joka accused the mayor of betraying them. “Politicians are lying; working around it. We told them and they agreed that we would occupy the space until further engagements, a meeting on Thursday.

“There was peace and calmness but by evicting us on Tuesday they ruined it,” he said.

Joka said more disruptions should be expected. “No one enjoys doing this. It’s not that we have the time to just cause action, but we have formally engaged with government for years, with no success,” he said.

Sihle Ngobese, spokesperson for social development MEC Albert Fritz, said the department had suspended its operations in Gugulethu.

“Tuesday’s assault on the Gugulethu local office by a splinter group of protesters left four vehicles belonging to staff burnt and two government vehicles used by social workers damaged.

"In addition, we have come to learn that one of our social workers, returning from fieldwork and unaware of the violence, was accosted by the mob and ejected from the official vehicle. This vehicle was then burnt to a cinder.”

Ngobese said Fritz condemned the violent actions and the matter was being handled by police.

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Cape Argus