Service delivery protests twice close N2

Time of article published Sep 16, 2014

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Cape Town - The situation remained tense in Grabouw on Tuesday morning after service delivery protests broke out in the Western Cape farming town, causing school closures, looting and vandalism.

The N2 was closed from the Eskom turnoff and Pineview North entrance to The Orchards farm stall.

A resident of Melrose Place said she heard shots being fired until about 11pm on Monday night, where informal housing near Gaffley Street had been broken down by protesters.

Police have lined Ou Kaapse Weg and Gaffley street to protect people wanting to walk to work.

Buses and motorists were being directed along alternative routes in the Caledon and Gordon's Bay area under police protection.

One of the Western Cape’s two economic lifelines remained closed late on Monday as stone-throwers picked moving targets on the N2 highway.

Monday ended as it began at dawn, with Sir Lowry’s Pass, the Houwhoek Pass and a 25km length of the N2 through the Elgin Valley shut to traffic.

The first projectiles were hurled before dawn on the straight stretch of road between the first and second turn-offs to Grabouw. The road was re-opened at about 9.30am, but was closed again at about 4.30pm.

Long queues of vehicles sat jammed at the foot of Sir Lowry’s Pass, with some motorists choosing to head south towards Gordon’s Bay and take the Clarence Drive coastal road instead, via Rooi Els, Betty’s Bay and Kleinmond.

Western Cape Transport MEC Donald Grant on Monday night slammed the interruption to traffic on the key route.

“I’ve been in touch with the mayor of Theewaterskloof and Community Safety MEC Dan Plato. Obviously, the police have some problems of their own right now - and one is understanding of that.

“But it’s completely unacceptable to us that this matter is not dealt with effectively by the police. Citizens have a right to protest, but they have no right to take rights away from other citizens. Burning tyres, pouring oil and stoning on one of the main economic routes in the Western Cape is completely unacceptable.”

At mid-morning, police fired rubber bullets and used teargas to disperse more than 1 000 people protesting over service delivery at the Grabouw municipal offices.

The protesters began assembling in Old Cape Road and marched a few hundred metres to the municipal offices in Pineview to hand over a memorandum listing their grievances.

The public order policing unit watched the march closely, and Theewaterskloof mayor Chris Punt arrived from Caledon to receive the memorandum.

After being addressed by several community leaders, the crowd left the municipal offices but began filtering back into the surrounding suburbs, hurling rocks at police, who gave chase.

Soon several rioters emerged at the N2 highway and began stoning vehicles.

The protest is the second in recent weeks.

Residents were not satisfied with the response to a list of grievances they handed to deputy mayor Mlulami Tshaka and town manager Anton Liebenberg on August 20.

John Michels, leader of the Grabouw Civics Organisation, then warned that the N2 would be blocked every weekend until their demands were met.

Grievances included in the memorandum were lack of housing, poor and expensive electricity supply, and bad roads.

Margaret le Roux, secretary of the civics, said some people had been waiting more than 20 years for their houses.

“We are also not satisfied with the way the houses are allocated,” she said. “We have a list of people that need houses but the municipality has a different list to ours.”

The Theewaterskloof municipality said it did not provide electricity to Grabouw. The town’s electricity came directly from Eskom.

“We do have a road maintenance programme to keep roads in a proper state but we will look at the conditions of the specific roads mentioned in the memorandum of grievances,” it said.

“The municipality receives a very limited budget from the national housing department, of which the bulk is spent on housing for Grabouw.”

The ANC and the SACP have pledged support for the protesters.

Andile Lili, the expelled former Cape Town councillor and leader of the Ses’Khona Peoples Movement, said they were gaining more and more support in Grabouw and the Theewaterskloof area.

Lili was not present in Grabouw on Monday but he confirmed by telephone that Ses’Khona members had helped organise the march.

“We fully support our members and the Grabouw Civics Organisation and will encourage them to continue taking action until their demands are met.

“The people must stand up for themselves.”

Ses’Khona, which has a strong base in Cape Town, was aiming at extending its support base to the Western Cape’s rural areas including Theewaterskloof, Hermanus and De Doorns, Lili said.

Cape Argus and Sapa

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