Cape Town - A community hall in Khayelitsha was set alight by a mob of angry residents when their children returned home from a city sports and recreation function with suspected food poisoning.
It resulted in the closure of parts of the N2 on Saturday night.
On Saturday the city’s Sport, Recreation and Amenities Department hosted a youth games event at the OR Tambo Hall in Khayelitsha.
It is alleged that children from the BM informal settlement, near Mew Way, who attended the sporting event returned home with complaints of stomach cramps.
Their parents believed the cramps were caused by food poisoning. Three children were taken to the Khayelitsha Hospital.
In the early hours of Sunday the parents met a group of residents who were protesting for houses. The two groups worked together and set the community hall alight.
Three women were arrested.
Ward councillor Monde Nqulana said the three women were parents of the children who fell ill.
Nqulana said BM residents were upset by two issues - the first being housing. He said the BM residents were promised housing from the Bosasa project in Mfuleni after their homes were burnt down in 2013.
He said after a long wait the residents learnt that the project had been put on hold by the city. “Last night they decided to protest and closed the N2 and Lansdowne with tyre barricades.”
He said housing protesters met the parents of the children in the morning.
“The food poisoning spiked the anger and I am afraid the hall is badly damaged. I doubt that there will be any sports taking place there now. The infrastructure is badly damaged.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Andrè Traut said police were deployed to the scene and were there most of the morning.
He confirmed the arrests of three women. “Arson and public violence are being investigated.”
Mayoral committee member for community services and special projects Belinda Walker condemned the torching of the community hall.
She said the kitchen of the facility was destroyed and other parts of the building suffered minor structural damage. “It’s horrifying that people think that burning down a hall and inconveniencing people for an extended period of time is the way to air their grievances.”
She confirmed that the city received reports that 30 children fell ill with suspected food poisoning and that the participants were taken to Khayelitsha for treatment.
“While officials were briefing parents regarding the situation, a group of community members entered the venue as they were under the impression the meeting was related to housing development and service delivery matters.”
Walker said after it was explained that the meeting was not housing-related the group left and later returned in the morning to torch the hall.
“The city will launch an investigation into the matter of food poisoning due to refreshments supplied by the service provider, Ameena Ebrahim Caterers, and will, if necessary, take action.”
Additional reporting by ANA