Riot police stand ready near a traffic light ablaze on Strandfontein Road. Photo: Henk Kruger

The 21 people arrested on charges of public violence in Grassy Park appeared in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court a few hours after they were arrested on Thursday. They were released from custody and warned to reappear in court on August 29.

Eric Balebamye, of the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in Phumlani Village, said he was unhappy with the way protesters had been treated by police.

“They should never have been arrested in the first place,” he said.

He said the protest, which was scheduled to start at 6am on Thursday, was legal “up until the last moment”, but the City of Cape Town sent an e-mail postponing the time allocated for their march to 9am. By then, it was too late.”

Early on Thursday, protesters from Phumlani Village burnt tyres and set alight traffic lights on Strandfontein Road, bringing morning traffic to a standstill. Police responded by firing smoke and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.

Much of the community anger was directed at local ward councillor Shaun August (DA), who they said had refused to meet them to discuss their grievances about electricity, street lighting, housing, water and sanitation.

But August wrote off the protest as “cheap politicking” by “an affiliate of the ANC” and blamed the community for the grievances, saying it was drug pedlars who had broken street lights to deal under the cover of darkness. He also reprimanded community members for illegal electricity connections and for trying to “jump the queue” in the housing programme.

August said the destruction of property, the burning of tyres and the fact that the protest started at 5am made it illegal.

He met Sanco representatives and community leaders afterwards to discuss a way forward.

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Cape Argus