Cape Town – Firefighters became the latest victims of attacks by crowds occupying vacant land across the city yesterday.
The fire crew responding to a blaze had a narrow escape when their vehicle was surrounded and stoned along Mew Way near Khayelitsha.
The vehicle, from Lansdowne Road fire station, was on its way to burning informal structures in the area.
“None of the five staff members were hurt, but they’re badly shaken up and we will support them through the City’s employee wellness programme. Several windows, including the windscreen and both doors were damaged, so the vehicle is out of commission until the repairs are done,” said Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith.
There were also reports that protesters in Gugulethu gathered in front of the fire station, threatening to prevent staff from leaving to attend to calls unless their grievances were addressed.
“I call on any person with information about the attack on our firefighters to please report it to our Public Emergency Communication Centre by dialling 021 480 7700 from a cellphone. Reports can be logged anonymously,” said Smith.
Four ambulances, an Eskom vehicle, a Dial-A-Ride vehicle and other private vehicles were also stoned and some burned during the protests.
Two passengers and a driver sustained head injuries when the Dial-A-Ride vehicle was stoned. Mayco member for transport Felicity Purchase said one victim was admitted to hospital.
Eskom withdrew its operations from Khayelitsha and Bardale in Mfuleni after one of its vehicles was stoned and set alight. The parts of Khayelitsha where services have been withdrawn are sections A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, RR, DD, DT and BM, Thembani, Khwezi, Bongweni, Site B and Site C.
The land occupiers have demanded a meeting with mayor Dan Plato and Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi to submit a list of demands.
Community leaders addressed the crowd of about 100 who blocked Mew Way.
Ward councillor Khaya Yozi said various spheres of government should meet and resolve land issues.
“The violent protest undermines the legitimacy of the agenda. People have every right to demand from the government because their demands are in the Freedom Charter.
“As community leaders we have tried to calm the situation down because people were starting to lose control of the protest. We have requested a meeting with Dan Plato and Booi,” said Yozi.
Booi said the escalating protests were well planned, well funded and orchestrated.
“Funds allocated by the national government for human settlements are decreasing, but the needs for accommodation and impact of urbanisation are increasing. It cannot be that a City government must carry the cost of urbanisation,” he said.
Police spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said: “Police, SANDF and other law enforcement agencies are monitoring the protest action on Mew Way Bridge where a group of about 100 people are participating in a land invasion protest. No reports of violence so far.”