Grabouw remains ‘volatile’
Cape Town - Protests continued in Grabouw on Wednesday morning, with a section of the N2 closed to traffic and two government department buildings partially damaged.
On Wednesday morning a section of the N2, at the foot of Sir Lowry’s Pass, was closed for the third day. Later, much of the section of highway was re-opened to traffic.
Provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa said the area remained volatile.
“A section of 2km on the N2 still remains closed. The alternative route for traffic would be travelling Bot Road, through Grabouw and towards Caledon.”
Africa added that the Grabouw area remained tense.
He said community members had planned a meeting with the municipality, the SAPS and the mayor of Grabouw on Wednesday to try to find a solution.
“Since the start of the protest on Monday, 11 people have been arrested. Stone-throwing and placing tree branches in the road is still problematic.”
When the Cape Argus visited Grabouw on Wednesday morning, firefighters had just doused flames at a traffic department building. A burning tyre had allegedly been thrown at a side door, causing the the blaze.
In town, the windows of the Home Affairs building had been shattered.
Large rocks littered some roads and a heavy police presence remained in the area.
Meanwhile, 12 Grabouw schools were closed on Tuesday as violent protests in the town continued. Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the protests came at a critical time for matrics who should be writing their September mock exams, while primary school pupils were scheduled to start their annual national assessments - which assess their numeracy and literacy skills - on Tuesday.
Around 6 000 pupils had been affected.
The protesters’ grievances include a lack of housing, poor and expensive electricity supply and bad roads.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato described the rioting, stone-throwing and violence as “organised guerrilla-type tactics”.
Speaking at a section of the N2 that had been closed by police, Plato said he had come to see first-hand what was happening.
“According to our information there are three large groups responsible for the violence in Grabouw and moving in different directions to cause problems,” he told a Sapa correspondent. “This is a headache for the police and causing endless frustration.”
Schäfer said she wanted learning to resume as soon as possible and on Tuesday laid criminal charges at the Cape Town Central Police Station against the executive committee of the ANC Western Cape, John Michels of the Grabouw Civic Organisation, the executive committee of the Ses’Khona People’s Rights Movement and its leader Andile Lili, and others.
“In terms of the SA Schools Act it is an offence to prevent people from attending school and we believe that the parties involved are undermining our learners’ constitutional right to education.”
Even if the ANC and Lili were not at the site where the violence was taking place, “the fact that they are making public statements supporting it makes them in my view equally culpable”.
But Lili hit back, accusing Schäfer of “distracting from the real issues”.
“They should be focusing on improving the lives of people in Grabouw and improving the school system but instead they are trying to intimidate us with court cases.”
ANC Western Cape secretary Songezo Mjongile said that instead of running to the police, Schäfer should approach her party leaders in the province “to stop evading their duties” and, together with the affected communities, find amicable solutions for their unhappiness.
“The ANC understands people’s frustration, but does not support the means they use to vent their rage. The ANC says all learners should be in school on time and learning. The ANC also calls on all leaders in Grabouw to tell people to exercise restraint, desist from violence and report all criminal acts in order for the perpetrators to be brought to book.”
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said Schäfer’s case docket would be transferred to the police in Grabouw for further investigation.
A motorist in Somerset West, who travelled from Hermanus on Tuesday, said the traffic on the road from Kleinmond was chaotic.
“It is the only road we can use because of the closure at Grabouw. It is taking us hours longer to get to our destination. The road is crowded with trucks,” he said.