Cape Town - A protester has reportedly died in hospital after allegedly being assaulted by angry taxi drivers during protests in Masiphumelele this week.
Residents told the Cape Argus that the attack happened on Monday when community members, demonstrating in support of an application to change the bail conditions to allow activist Lubabalo Vellem to return to his home in Masiphumelele, first gathered and hindered taxi drivers looking for fares. The bail application was turned down on Tuesday.
Vellem, 35, who faces charges of attempted murder, assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and malicious damage to property, has been living with his sister in Khayelitsha after conditions, when he was released on bail of R5 000 in November, included he be removed from the area.
He has been implicated in mob justice incidents after the rape and murder of 14-year-old Amani Pula.
In the past, members of the community have complained that they were forced to seek justice themselves because of a lack of police support.
Resident Sibongile Siphango said this morning that violence in the area resulted in one resident losing their life, and other people being injured.
He said they had asked taxi drivers in the area to support Vellem and not transport anyone going to work, but violence had then erupted on Monday.
“We, as the community, decided that it would be best that no one goes to work so we can rally behind Vellem...”
A resident who lives near Masiphumelele, but asked not to be named, said he had been told by several people in the community that violence had erupted at one stage on Monday between the residents and the taxi drivers, and a person was assaulted and later died in hospital.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said this morning they had no record of the matter and that the situation in Masiphumelele was quiet today due to visible patrols by police and the city’s Metro police.
There were also reports of shots being fired at police in Masiphumelele and people being warned not to go to work on Monday. But police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel André Traut said they had no record of shots being fired in the area.
A 700-strong crowd marched from Masiphumelele on Tuesday and spent the day outside court in Simon’s Town waiting to hear if their leader would return home.
The mostly peaceful crowd banged empty cooldrink bottles together and sang and danced, at one stage hoisting Vellum and his lawyer Kayleigh Devlin on their shoulders before the case started.
There were no incidents of violence on Tuesday and Priya Reddy, spokeswoman for the City of Cape Town, said it had been a legal march. She said the permit had allowed for a group of 700 to march to Simon’s Town.
Kommetjie Road was blocked off temporarily as a safety measure and security services were on scene to monitor, Reddy said.
On Wednesday, Devlin told the court that Vellum had lived in Masiphumelele for the past 13 years and had a life there.
She said his life had been put on hold while he was in Khayelitsha, and that he had adhered to his bail conditions by signing in at the police station there.
Devlin said the community looked up to him and wanted him to return.
“The fabric of the accused’s life should not be destroyed by imposing unnecessary bail conditions,” she said, adding it would be in the interest of justice and the community if Vellum was allowed to return to Masiphumelele.
He was also an ANC member and was being screened as a potential councillor for the area, which meant he needed to be there to attend meetings and interviews.
State prosecutor William Daniels opposed the application, saying many questions had been left unanswered and that not enough information had been furnished by the defence for bail conditions to be relaxed.
In denying the application, Magistrate Crystal McKenna said no concrete evidence or proof from the defence had shown that Vellum’s circumstances had changed.
She said although the court accepted that Vellum had made a life in Masiphumelele, he had agreed to the bail conditions that had been set out earlier.
McKenna said it appeared that the application was premature and, only if Vellum was accepted as a candidate to stand as a councillor, would it mean his circumstances had changed.