Two Cape Town law enforcement officers were injured, roads were closed, vehicles stoned and journalists attacked as Elsies River residents protested against the demolition of a shack on Monday.
About 500 residents of Clarke Estate blockaded 35th Street with burning tyres and stones after law enforcement officers demolished the shack next to the council-owned Rooiberg Court flats.
The city’s safety and security director, Richard Bosman, said the city had demolished “an illegal structure” last week following a complaint from the local ward councillor.
“Officers returned to the area after the structure was re-erected. During the operation, a crowd gathered and became riotous, resulting in two officers being injured.
“The crowd then blockaded 35th Avenue and pelted passing vehicles with stones,” Bosman said.
The Cape Times could not speak to the owner of the demolished shack because the crowd was too violent. Some residents said it was the third time the shack had been demolished.
“There is a father and child living in the shack. Why must the city come here and demolish this poor man’s shack? It is totally wrong of them doing this,” resident Jenny Jacobs said.
Another resident, Jan Abrahams, said: “We will not stop protesting. These city cops are treating our people like they are animals. They break down the homes of our people without thinking twice. We are poor and trying to make a living. This is wrong and I know our action here is not right, but we are fed up with our situation.”
There was a tense stand-off between community leaders, some dressed in ANC T-shirts, and Public Order police officers.
The leaders had asked police to move away from the crowd, but officers said they had a responsibility to keep the road safe.
“These people will not go away if you keep on standing here. You must go. Where are you when the gangsters are shooting in the area?” a leader, Jonty Mark, asked.
A second round of negotiations with police failed and officers told the community leaders they were going take action.
Police threw a stun grenade and about 20 officers ran into the area, lobbing more stun grenades and firing rubber bullets. They threw stun grenades on to properties where protesters were hiding.
Officers were met with a shower of stones, sharp objects and glass bottles as the crowd intensified their action. Protesters burnt more tyres and placed bigger rocks in the road.
The Cape Times team was forced to run into the home of a resident as protesters targeted journalists at the scene.
Police responded with more stun grenades and rubber bullets.
A police water cannon was later used to disperse the crowd.
Police spokesman Tembinkosi Kinana said on Monday night that the situation had calmed just after 7pm.
“Our officers were still on the scene. Earlier in the day, they tried to disperse the riotous crowd.
“It appeared the law enforcement officers had done an operation and the people did not take kindly to their action. We will remain in the area to ensure the road is safe,” he said.
No injuries were reported and no arrests were made, he said.