Cape Town - Hundreds of pupils in Grabouw could not get to school for the second consecutive day on Wednesday morning due to protests and closed roads in the area.
There was a tense stand-off between a large group of protesters and a strong police contingent on Wednesday morning following a day of violent protests on Tuesday that saw the local traffic department set alight and cars stoned on the N2.
Protests began on Monday night after new members of the community heard they would have to vacate the land they had been occupying for more than a month. Police, law enforcement and the Land Invasion Unit moved in behind the line of protesters to demolish many of the dwellings. They appeared to concentrate on the unfinished homes.
When the residents realised what was going on, they retaliated by throwing stones at the officers, who in turn used rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas to disperse them.
Scores of protesting residents from Siyanyanzela informal settlement gathered on the Old Cape Road and began burning rubble on Wednesday morning. Smoke billowed from the hill on which the new settlement is situated.
On Wednesday Groenberg Secondary School Principal Anthony Hess said that two-thirds of pupils and one-third of teachers did not arrive at school that morning.
“Schools in the area are basically open, but many learners and teachers cannot get through the roads,” he said.
While exact attendance figures at each school have not been released, the following schools are affected: Umyezo Wama Apile Primary, Umyezo Wama Apile High, Groenberg Secondary, Pineview Secondary and Kathleen Murray Primary.
“We trust that SAPS will act swiftly and decisively to restore order in these communities so that teaching and learning can resume as soon as possible,” Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said on Tuesday.
She added that this was a very important time of year for all pupils, but especially for those in Grade 12 with June examinations just around the corner.
Western Cape Traffic Chief Kenny Africa was in Grabouw early on Wednesday with provincial traffic services to monitor and block off roads.
He said the town was quiet throughout the night, but tensions rose again on Wednesday morning.
The N2 was closed between Gordon’s Bay and Grabouw on Wednesday morning. Africa recommended drivers take the R44 from the Gordon’s Bay turn-off through Kleinmond. Roads are also closed on the Caledon side of Houwhoek Pass at Bot River.
“Currently there are no incidents reported in Grabouw, police are monitoring the situation,” police spokeswoman Constable Noloyiso Rwexana said on Wednesday.
She said nine people were arrested on Tuesday but two were released. Six suspects were charged and will appear in court, five facing charges of public violence with others facing possession of stolen property charges.
Community leader Thobinceba Tshungwana said residents decided to protest after hearing rumours of a pending eviction. He said people were tired of renting in backyards and wanted their own houses, but as the leaders they would consult with land owners. However, it was not immediately clear who owned the land.
Siphesihle Dube, the spokesman for the provincial department of transport and public works, said the land did not belong to the department.