Schools closed as protests sweep Grabouw
Cape Town - All but one of Grabouw’s 13 schools were closed on Tuesday as violent protests in the town continued for a second day. Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said the protests came at a critical time for matrics who should be writing their September mock exams, while primary school pupils were scheduled to start their annual national assessments - which assess their numeracy and literacy skills - on Tuesday.
Around 6 000 pupils had been affected.
The protesters’ grievances include a lack of housing, poor and expensive electricity supply and bad roads.
Community Safety MEC Dan Plato described the rioting, stone-throwing and violence in Grabouw as “organised guerrilla-type tactics”.
Speaking at a section of the N2 in Grabouw that had been closed by police, Plato said he had come to see first-hand what was happening.
“According to our information there are three large groups responsible for the violence in Grabouw and moving in different directions to cause problems,” he told a Sapa correspondent.
“This is a headache for the police and causing endless frustration.”
Schäfer said she wanted learning to resume as soon as possible and on Tuesday laid criminal charges at the Cape Town central police station against the executive committee of the ANC Western Cape, John Michels of the Grabouw Civic Organisation, the executive committee of the Ses’Khona People’s Rights Movement and its leader Andile Lili and others.
“In terms of the SA Schools Act it is an offence to prevent people from attending school and we believe that the parties involved are undermining our learners’ constitutional right to education.”
Even if the ANC and Lili were not at the site where the violence was happening, “the fact that they are making public statements supporting it makes them in my view equally culpable”.
But Lili hit back, accusing Schäfer of “distracting from the real issues”.
“They should be focusing on improving the lives of people in Grabouw and improving the school system but instead they are trying to intimidate us with court cases.”
ANC Western Cape secretary Songezo Mjongile said that instead of running to the police, Schäfer should approach her party leaders in the province “to stop evading their duties” and, together with the affected communities, find amicable solutions for their unhappiness.
“The ANC understands people’s frustration, but does not support the means they use to vent their rage. The ANC says all learners should be in school on time and learning. The ANC also calls on all leaders in Grabouw to tell people to exercise restraint, desist from violence and report all criminal acts in order for the perpetrators to be brought to book.”
Police spokesman Colonel Tembinkosi Kinana said Schäfer’s case docket would be transferred to the police in Grabouw for further investigation.
Plato spoke to Overberg ANC regional leader Wilfred Herman about looking for a solution, and said a meeting was to be held at the Grabouw police station late on Tuesday to determine the reasons behind the rioting.
As Plato was speaking, about 30 police officers formed a line along the N2 from the Eskom turn-off at Pineview North to a bend just before The Orchards Farm Stall. Two Nyalas were patrolling the highway.
Rubber bullets and teargas were being fired at regular intervals to prevent stone-throwers from returning to the N2. At one stage a stun grenade was also used.
Sanral’s teams of road workers were trying to clear the debris of rock and burning tyres left from the morning’s protests. Police fought back a large group of around 1 000 protesters gathered on a hill in the Siteview township not far from the N2, throwing stones, chanting and toyi-toying.
Another group had gathered on a steep hill right next to the N2 close to The Orchards Farm Stall. They were stoning the police and the Nyalas as they passed on the N2 below them. Some of them had makeshift plastic shields to defend themselves against the rubber bullets.
A motorist in Somerset West, who travelled from Hermanus, said the traffic on the road from Kleinmond was chaotic.
“It is the only road we can use because of the closure at Grabouw.
“It is taking us hours longer to get to our destination. The road is crowded with trucks and most of the time we were driving at about 20km/h,” he said.
Cape Argus and Sapa