Aftermath of torching of Gugulethu fire station. Picture: City of Cape Town
Aftermath of torching of Gugulethu fire station. Picture: City of Cape Town
Firefighters at the Gugulethu fire station sought refuge at the drill yard, where they waited for metro police to rescue them when angry demonstrators torched the facility during a protest yesterday.

Four of the Fizeka administration offices belonging to the city council at the rear of the station were petrol-bombed, while four vehicles and a store were also set alight at the electricity depot near NY 78.

The city council said it would take several days to assess the damage caused to the fire station and made an estimation of R1million.

Fire and Rescue Services spokesperson Theo Layne said: “Firefighters were forced to vacate the premises and remained in the drill yard until metro police and law enforcement had dispersed the protesters. The front of the fire station had sustained severe damage, including the watch room, engine bay doors and security entrance gate.

“Firefighters from Mitchells Plain Fire Station responded to the incident but due to blocked roadways, caused by burning tyres, had to take a long detour to get to the Gugulethu Fire Station. Fortunately no injuries occurred.”

At the heart of the protest by residents of the newly built Ramaphosa informal settlement, is the land which the residents have occupied for the past five months.

The city council said it would take several days to assess the damage caused to the Gugulethu fire station and made an estimation of R1 million. Video: Okuhle Hlati

They want the city council to buy the private-owned land and provide basic services such as water and electricity.

Police spokesperson FC van Wyk said one of the torched vehicles was reportedly hijacked in Nyanga in the morning.

“SAPS members took action to disperse the riotous crowd. One fireman was reportedly injured after hit with a stone in the face,” said Van Wyk.

Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said the firefighters who were on duty at the time were going to receive counselling and the fire station was closed until further notice.

“Staff at the Lansdowne Road fire station in Khayelitsha were also put on alert for possible evacuation amid threats that the protesters were planning to target that facility too. Our fire crews will be based at the Mitchells Plain fire station and will dispatch from there.

“What this means is that the actions of a few have put the lives of thousands of residents at risk as there will now be a delay in the response times to any fire call outs in the Gugulethu area. It doesn’t matter how legitimate the cause, we cannot tolerate the wanton destruction and threat to lives that we witnessed,” said Smith.

However, a pregnant Xolelwa Halon said: “The only language that the city understands is violence.

“We requested to meet a city official but no avail. We are aware that the owner is willing to sell the land but they just refuse to buy ”

Responding to the residents, the city said they met land owners and those involved in the land invasions on several occasions and agreed to have report-back meetings.

Mayco member for Area South Eddie Andrews said: “The City takes the rights of residents seriously. However, we cannot prioritise illegal land invasions over existing informal settlement upgrade and service programmes.”

Anyone with information about the incident can anonymously contact Crime Stop on 0860010111 or SMS Crime Line 32211. Information can also be shared with the city’s Public Emergence Communication Centre on 107 from a landline or 0214807700 from a cellphone.