Matrics suffer during Grabouw protests
Cape Town - The Grabouw protests, which saw a fire station set alight on Wednesday and parts of the N2 closed for three hours, is starting to pose a serious threat to the area’s economy and is hampering matric exam preparations.
In a third day of running pitched battles between police and protesters, businesses and schools kept their doors shut.
Protesters set a fire station alight on Wednesday after they damaged a Home Affairs office by pelting it with stones on Tuesday night.
While a stretch of the N2 was opened for traffic at the foot of Sir Lowry’s Pass by 8am, a 2km stretch remained closed for three hours.
The N2 was re-opened by 1pm. Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said protesters marched to the municipality’s offices in Grabouw, following service delivery-related complaints in the area.
“According to information received, residents have been throwing stones at motorists on the N2 since Monday. They put rocks and burning wood on the road to show their dissatisfaction with response from authorities.”
On Monday night, spaza shops and seven wendy houses belonging to the municipality were destroyed.
“Police are investigating housebreaking, theft, malicious damage to property, public violence and intimidation cases after these shops were broken into. Eleven arrests have been made as part of the investigations into these incidents.”
On Wednesday, protesters used sheets of corrugated iron as shields as they advanced towards police on the N2.
Police used stun grenades, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds that continued to march towards the blue line. Angry residents yelled at police and media to leave the area.
Two passing motorists were pelted with stones, but drove on without serious damage to their vehicles.
Kruger Hoffman from KH Bearing Supplies said business has been down since Monday. “People are asked to stay at home. It’s quiet and nothing is going on.”
He said the closure of the N2 had had a snowball effect on business, with many suppliers not able to enter the town. “People are warning others not to go to work and everyone is being intimidated. It’s a big infrastructure, especially for those guys who need to prune fruit. People are afraid to enter town.”
Hoffman said two staff members could not enter the town and had been absent from work.
Maynie Geldenhuys, a worker at a Grabouw butchery, described the protests as “complete madness”.
“What does the N2 and motorists have anything to do with service delivery issues? They are also losing money and why keep people from work?”
She added that the store had been exceptionally quiet on Wednesday. Deliveries and staff were affected. “Three staff members couldn’t come to work.”
Protesters continued to hurl stones at police after 3.30pm. Cape Argus photographer Willem Law was hit on the shoulder while capturing the drama.
Meanwhile, thousands of school pupils stayed at home, amid reports of threats and intimidation.
Western Cape Education Department spokeswoman Jessica Shelver said many pupils and parents experienced large scale intimidation when they tried to reach their schools on Wednesday morning.
“We are unsure when calm will be restored in Grabouw and when it will be safe for our learners to attend school. There are no learners at four schools in the area.”
She added that a small number of pupils attended one school in Grabouw, but attendance was low because of fear of violence and intimidation.
“The bus services were cancelled as they were being attacked en route. While we condemn any disruption to schooling at any time during the school year, the disruption of schooling at this critical time of the year is even more concerning.”
Shelver said education department district officials were working with school management to ensure that exams and assessments were rescheduled.
Primary school pupils are writing the Annual National Assessments and high school pupils their September examinations. Grade 12 pupils are writing their September mock matric, which are an important assessment tool for teachers and pupils before the National Senior Certificate examinations.
“Last night amid all the activity, some of the teachers of Grabouw High School fetched the grade 12 learners to stay with them so they could prepare and study for today’s (Thursday) exam,” said Shelver.