Protesting students smashed a police car as they ran from Parliament after handing in their memorandum. Photo: Phando Jikelo

Cape Town - Thousands of people who protested in the city centre on Wednesday left a hefty damages bill in their wake as they went on the rampage , looting shops and destroying private property and businesses.

What started out as a seemingly peaceful march to Parliament, calling for free education, turned destructive after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivered his mid-term budget policy statement inside the Housey.

The protesters caused damage to restaurants, buses, police cars and city property, leaving companies to pick up the pieces and determine the damages. Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said they were still tallying the damages, but estimated the city would have to spend R500 000 on repairs.

He said the city was aware of one Law Enforcement vehicle, four metro police vehicles, two police vehicles, one MyCiTi bus, one private vehicle and a number of buildings in the Parliament precinct that were damaged by protesters.

Smith said the extent of the damages could total R2 million.

Police made six arrests on Thursday, four for public violence and two for assault of a police officer. Smith asked members of the public and businesses that were affected to come forward to open cases in hopes of apprehending those who damaged property and vehicles.

“Video footage of events is available and will be used to identify and prosecute offenders,” said Smith.

Spokesman for acting national police commissioner Lieutenant-General Khomotso Phahlane, Brigadier Mashadi Selepe, said the incidents were “being investigated and that arrests have been effected”.

Golden Arrow spokeswoman Bronwen Dyke-Beyer said they were disturbed by the events and had to suspend some bus services to parts of the day. “This was not an easy decision to make but the safety of our passengers must always come first.”

Students caused damage to property as they moved from Parliament to Cape Town station where they broke windows at a McDonald’s restaurant.

Chief operations and supply chain officer for McDonald’s, Jo-Ann de Wet said safety was of “paramount importance to us”and they “will provide relevant authorities with all possible information and co-operation required for their investigation of the matter”.

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Cape Argus