Weekend Argus / 21 July 2018, 09:29am / Norman Cloete and Soyiso Maliti
Cape Town - It was another bloody week in the Hermanus township of Zwelihle, where three police guns were stolen from a police Nyala during a protest that left a cop critically injured and in hospital.
An infant, at least two police officers and a protester were injured during violent protests there over the past week. Police Minister Bheki Cele denied social media reports that he had been chased away from the area.
His spokesperson Reneilwe Serero admitted that the situation was “tense and hostile”. “People there are very angry, but the minister managed to speak to them. Some were passing snide comments, so the easiest way to get the message across was for the leaders to speak to him on the side. The meeting proceeded as planned with the community leadership on the sidelines after they had finished the main meeting.”
Cele is due to meet the leaders again on Tuesday at 9am. “Today the leaders told the minister what the issues are. It’s a whole range of issues they relayed to the minister. He didn’t want to take a decision there; he said they must meet again on Tuesday, when they’re all calm and have thought things through.”
Cele said he would increase the number of police on the ground and a base would be set up for them.
One of the injured police officers is in hospital after protesters attacked him with an axe, shortly after 7pm on Thursday evening.
Serero said the officer was critically injured and that Cele had visited him and his family in hospital on Friday afternoon.
“The minister met the officer’s family. The mood was heavy at the hospital. He’s not looking too good, but the doctors are doing everything,” Serero said.
The area has been the scene of ongoing violence, with protesters demanding the release of an activist.
Thousands of residents took to the streets to demand the release of Zwelihle Renewal leader Gcobani Ndzongana, who was arrested for incitement and destruction of property.
The Zwelihle Renewal Committee was formed after protracted negotiations with government officials to re-examine housing lists and to provide serviced plots for Zwelihle backyarders to build their own homes.
The residents claim they have not been able to access police and medical assistance since violent protests flared up on Tuesday last week.
Protesters armed with rocks and corrugated iron attacked officers, who said it was difficult for them to go into the area because protesters had dug trenches in the roads and that the area was completely inaccessible to them.
Some residents who were injured were also unable to seek medical treatment, as the Hermanus Community Day Centre was closed due to the protests.
Patients were referred to the nearest clinic for medical treatment and to Hermanus Hospital for emergencies; however, all exits from the community were blocked.
Residents said they were still traumatised after they were shot with rubber bullets during the protests. Municipal infrastructure, houses and the belongings of people refusing to join the protest were also destroyed or damaged.
Two Zwelihle residents claimed there was only a handful of people behind the protests and they are referred to as the “generals”.
They further claim that the “generals” had threatened residents with violence to force them into joining the protests and that they employed young people from the area to stand at the exits of the township, to stop anyone from leaving unless it’s an emergency.
The houses and belongings of some residents who had gone to work were destroyed as a warning to anyone who dared to go against the so-called “generals”.
The Western Cape Education Department said the disruption also affected pupils travelling to schools outside Zwelihle, in the greater Hermanus and Kleinmond areas.