Cape Town - Residents of Masiphumelele are gearing up to again disrupt the settlement and its surrounds on Monday following a tense weekend during which armed police officers were stationed at every access point to the area.
This followed violence on Friday when protesters hurled stones and set vehicles alight, leading to businesses in surrounding areas being forced to close early and the evacuation of a nearby animal shelter.
Some businesses closed early on Saturday because of concern that further protests were iminent.
The protesters were angry with police because officers arrested one of their leaders, a man said by supporters to be instrumental in organising anti-crime marches, and they want him released from custody.
He is expected to appear in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court tomorrow on an assault charge.
“He’s a good guy who’s been keeping this place safe. He’s doing the job of the police,” a resident said on Saturday.
Another said it was his friend, who he identified only as Luba, who had been arrested.
“He did nothing wrong. He goes after the drug dealers and criminals. That’s not bad,” he said.
On Friday protesters stormed the nearby Fish Eagle Business Park, smashing windows. A bus was also set alight.
Staff at Tears, an animal rescue organisation based alongside the informal settlement, were on Saturday desperately trying to find shelter at nearby private homes for their remaining animals after they started evacuating their building late on Friday.
The decision to evacuate came after protesters marched along the road where Tears is located and set two boats and a car alight, blocking thoroughfares.
On Saturday a man who asked not to be named as he feared he would be targeted showed Weekend Argus a shack he used for storage which had also been set alight.
“I don’t know why they did this. They broke all the windows,” he said. “I’m very scared. But this is life and I shouldn’t complain.”
The owners of the gutted boats and car were not at the scene on Saturday. Some onlookers said the boats and cars had not been in use and were scrap items.
Yesterday a mound of burnt debris blocked the road leading into Masiphumelele, which was littered with rocks and crushed rubber bullet casings.
Scores of Metro Police and SA police officers were stationed around the settlement to prevent any possible protest extending to the surrounding areas.
An armoured police vehicle was parked at the main entrance to the settlement and a joint operations centre, including traffic officers and police, set up alongside it. Metro Police officers, armed with shotguns, were stationed at the the business park.
It’s not the first time residents have disrupted the area because of arrests – a month ago more than 1 000 protesters clashed with police following the detention of seven men in connection with a vigilante attack. They stopped protesting when the men were released from custody.
Vigilante killings and protests began in Masiphumelele on September 15, when two men were murdered hours after 14-year-old Amani Pula was found killed and apparently raped in his home there.
The same morning the teen’s body was found, a 24-year-old woman was raped in a separate incident.
About a month ago residents fatally attacked a man and beat another, who they suspected of being burglars.
How authorities are trying to prevent violence:
* A police task team is investigating recent mob attacks and protests.
* A satellite police station may be set up in the informal settlement.
* Intelligence is gathered during protests to determine how police deploy resources.
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