Cape Town - Masiphumelele erupted in protest again on Monday night as residents pushed a container on to Kommetjie Road and then set it alight while police in riot gear faced off against a crowd of hundreds of angry people.
A tense calm hung over the area this morning and Kommetjie Road was reopened for traffic. Tyres were still burning inside Masiphumelele itself.
The unrest mounted on Monday after a local community leader appeared in court to face charges including murder as a result of previous alleged vigilante action.
Some residents expressed their opposition to the case against Lubabalo Wellem, 35, while others were worried that the unrest was preventing them from going to work, conducting business or sending their children to school this morning .
Mayco member for Safety and Security JP Smith described the situation as volatile.
“All role players (are) still in the area,” he said. “Businesses in Fish Eagle Park are currently closed due to protesters threatening to target that area.”
The police confirmed the uneasy calm. “The situation this morning in Masiphumelele can be described as quiet following a riotous situation on Monday night when police were needed to take action against a group of protesters,” said liaison officer Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut.
“Damage was caused to the road surface which led to a road closure this morning. The Police members will remain on alert in the area to monitor the situation.”
A resident who wanted to be known as Khethiwe said: “I didn’t go to work today because the place I work at, which is very close to the community, has been closed down. And that means no work (and) no pay for us.”
She said: “It’s not only affecting us but our children can’t go to school and they have exams, it’s really getting out of hand now.”
Another resident, Msora, said the community wanted to get rid of drugs in the area. “(The drugs) result in crime. Crime is quite high here and we are tired. Police aren’t doing their job, which is why we are doing it for them. We even report every incident but nothing gets done.
“We won’t stop until we see that everything is normal.”
Business owner Trevor Bowker said the violence was affecting business.
“I’ve lost two days of production. And it’s affecting my staff as well because they can’t come to work. They get threatened.”
Much of the discontent in the township near Kommetjie has been ascribed to the arrest of a community leader on charges including murder as a result of alleged vigilante actions.
The tension mounted on Monday as community leader Lubabalo Wellem made his first appearance in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court.
The protesting residents, a smaller group within the greater community, dragged a shipping container into the road and set it on fire on Monday night. Other residents said they were threatened.
Wellem appeared before magistrate Crystal McKenna and was remanded for a bail hearing on Friday.
Police in the area were on high alert after residents began gathering on Sunday night. There were calls for protests against Wellem’s detention.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman Eric Ntabazalila said Wellem was appearing on charges, including murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm and malicious damage to property.
Ntabazalila said it was Wellem’s first appearance and the matter was postponed for a bail application.
Meanwhile, residents say they do not understand the charges against Wellem.
In anticipation of Wellem’s bail hearing, residents of Masiphumelele raised R21 000.
Nontembiso Madikana said residents were unhappy with the outcome of Monday’s court proceedings.
She said: “Everyone was expecting him to be released on bail.
“We made a collection and were prepared to pay his bail.”
Madikana said Wellem was away for three weeks before he was apprehended by police.
“Lubabalo is a regular churchgoer. He motivates our children, but admittedly is very outspoken.”
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