People protesting under the banner of "Gatvol Capetonian" blockaded the Stellenbosch Arterial with burning tyres on Thursday. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town – The City has condemned the violence targeted at "already vulnerable communities, the denial of their freedom of movement and the damage done to infrastructure belonging to these communities" during yesterday's total shutdown protests.

The total shutdown movement highlighted the plight of those living in backyards, pleading for access to land and housing, by holding protests on major roads and at intersections across the Cape Town metro from 5am to 11am.

"The protests caused damage to road surfaces in seven areas, which will deteriorate much more rapidly due to the fire damage and will require resurfacing, as well as damage to traffic lights and street lights which were destroyed. 

"The total preliminary cost of these damages is likely to be in excess of R1.5 million," mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said on Friday.

"Damages to infrastructure is easier to calculate than the cost of emergency and policing staff who were unavailable due to the requirement for them to protect loss of life and infrastructure at the sites of protest; the cost of traffic congestion; and the damage to the public image of the city in relation to its ability to attract employment and investment as well as damage to the tourism industry, especially with violent protests following shortly on the heels of a very serious period of high gang violence which has caused massive reputational harm to the city.

"Perhaps the worst misery was felt by residents of communities where the protests took place and where schools, clinics, libraries and other amenities were affected and where service and emergency vehicles could not gain access and where residents could not get to work or take children to school due to the illegal blockading of the roads.  

"Many were attacked in their vehicles attempting to drive past protests and were left traumatised.

"The Mayor (Dan Plato) advised that he had attempted to contact the organiser of the protest but that he had not answered or returned his calls since the beginning of the week.

"The City has laid criminal charges in relation to incitement to violence and other offences against the national spokesperson of the organisation responsible for the illegal protests and more may follow in the next few days.

"We hope that the arrest of this person may follow speedily as the City will be initiating a civil claim against him to recover the more than a million rand infrastructure damages caused by the riots he incited."

The City was aware of seven locations where protests took place yesterday, Smith said. They included:

* Wale Street entrance to Bo-Kaap where a handful of people span a string across the road with sheets with slogans on. A few tyres were set alight, which the SAPS removed. By 10am they had been moved to the side of the road and the road reopened.

* Grassy Park on the corner of M5 and Hyde Road where protestors burnt tyres and tried to interfere with passing motorists.

*  Atlantis at Old Mamre/Darling and Silwerstroom Roads where approximately 50 protesters burnt wood and tyres on the roadway and intimidated passing motorists.

* Mitchells Plain, where tyres were burnt at AZ Berman and Trampoline Road. The roadway was cleared, but a human chain was then formed by protestors. The situation was calm.

* In Kensington, just after 8am, at the corner of 18th Avenue and Voortrekker, the South African Police Service’s Public Order Policing Unit used stun grenades to disperse the crowd blocking the road. The road was opened thereafter but there was another blockage at the corner of 5th Avenue and Voortrekker Road.

* The two most violent sites of conflict were Ocean View and Kommetjie where road access was closed off until midday before the SAPS and Metro Police were able to disperse protestors and clear the roads.  Traffic signals were destroyed as part of the protests.

* Delft was also the scene of violent protests at Main Road and Stellenbosch Arterial, with the roadway closed in both directions. The protest then moved into Delft where tyres, street poles and other materials were set alight in the road.

Fadiel Adams of Gatvol Capetonian told the Cape Times yesterday: "We would like to thank all the backyarders who came out this morning in spite of the cold, in spite of the wet, in spite of severe police intimidation which we haven't seen since the days of apartheid. We'd like to thank people for the most part behaving themselves.

"We condemn the criminal elements who were responsible for certain acts of vandalism – an incident in Ocean View and very slight one in the Delft area. We condemn SAPS and Law Enforcement for the heavy-handed approach to our legitimate protest.

On tear gas and stun grenades being fired at protesters in Kensington, he said: "I would love to know about that kind of crowd control when gangsters are causing havoc in our communities."

Cape Times