Pregnant teen hurt in Cape protest
Cape Town - Rampaging residents of a Helderberg suburb stoned passing motorists, lit burning barricades and confronted police in connection with a land dispute.
The N2 was closed at about mid-afternoon on Wednesday - as was the main Victoria Road, which leads into Somerset West - after vehicles were attacked by roving bands of residents from the suburb of Garden Village.
A number of motorists were forced to ramp over a centre island in a bid to flee the deadly projectiles.
The roads were strewn with rubbish, rocks and tree stumps, as aggressive crowds roamed from one end of the suburb to the other.
Many said they had nothing to do with the dispute over the patch of land in question and laughed and cheered as they hurled rocks and debris. The land dispute involved shacks built in the tiny sub-suburb known as Donkerbos, which is immediately south of the Somerset West railway station on the outskirts of Garden Village, along the N2.
The shacks were not occupied when they were dismantled - except for one, which was left standing.
Inside this last remaining dwelling, Kaylin Sylvester, 16, who is seven months’ pregnant, writhed and sobbed with pain while friends urgently called for an ambulance fearing she had gone into early labour.
Friends tending to her claimed she had been kicked from behind by an officer - they were not sure which state unit the officer belonged to, or whether it had been someone else - when violence broke out at about 3pm. It was equally unclear whether the pregnant teen had, during the chaos, fallen from another cause.
Another woman lying on a bed next to her said she had been “pepper-sprayed in the face”. Neither account could be independently corroborated.
A City of Cape Town fire and rescue team arrived shortly and helped residents get her to a waiting vehicle owned by Mbuyiselo Matha, an ANC ward councillor at Nomzamo, about 6km east along the N2 towards Sir Lowry’s Pass. She was later transferred to an ambulance and taken to hospital.
Siyabulela Mamkeli, mayoral committee member for human settlements, said on Tuesday the Anti-Land Invasion Unit “removed 11 unoccupied structures which were in the process of being erected on land in the Somerset West area, which needs to be kept clear in case of future development”.
“(On Tuesday night), structures had again been erected. The unit therefore removed 17 unoccupied structures (on Wednesday).
“Discussions are under way between the Western Cape government and the City of Cape Town regarding the details of the next phase of the Lourensia Park housing project, which are yet to be finalised. Some of the illegal occupants may be accommodated, if they qualify, in the next phase, which will offer about 150 housing opportunities.”
Mamkeli stressed: “Please note: this was not an eviction as the illegal structures were unoccupied. While we do everything in our power to provide interim relief to our residents in need, the city also has a duty to ensure that we deliver housing opportunities in a fair and systematic manner.
“While the city respects the right of residents to protest and voice their concerns, this must be done in a peaceful manner.”
A local community committee member, Charmaine Dampies, said she believed the violence was “wrong”, but said the removal of the wendy houses from the disputed land had “made the people resort to anything”.
By sunset, the smouldering remains of the burning barricades were still blocking roads.