There has been a dramatic increase in the number of unlawful protests in Cape Town in the last six weeks, resulting in damaged infrastructure, service delivery disruptions and massive inconvenience to residents.
This week, protest action in Blackheath and Strand caused severe disruptions and volatility in some areas of the city, putting the lives of members of the public at risk and impacting on the City’s ability to deliver public services.
In Khayelitsha, a number of main roads have been closed to traffic as a result of protest action.
A number of City Health facilities and libraries in Strand and Khayelitsha are closed or short-staffed as personnel cannot get into the areas due to the strikes and road blocks. Access to the Khayelitsha Hospital has also been blocked during these protests, putting the lives of patients at risk.
In the last 24 hours, at least three businesses have been looted by criminal elements either instigating the illegal protests or using the protests as excuses for theft and robbery.
The Law Enforcement Department has recorded 21 incidents of protest action in the past month. This follows 76 recorded incidents in March, an increase from 24 in February.
Many of the protests are related to attempted land invasions and the actions of City law enforcement agencies supported by the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that the ongoing attempts to invade City-owned land are not successful.
“There was an unprecedented 74% increase in land invasions year-on-year last year. To put the frequency of land invasions into perspective, between January and the end of June 2018 some 67 000 illegally erected vacant structures and pegs to mark off land were removed. These operations tie up an enormous amount of City law enforcement resources. But it is vital to protect land from illegal occupation,” said the City’s Mayco Member for Human Settlements, Councillor Malusi Booi.
“Illegal occupation leads to fire, health and flooding risks and places an enormous strain on our resources as a city. Priority is thus given to service provision for existing settlements. It is important for all of our communities in Cape Town to realise that land invasions affect us all.”
“The City respects the right to protest, but it is the nature of the protests that is putting our residents’ lives at risk. The violence, destruction of infrastructure, risk to public safety and the closure of major routes, which in turn impacts the economy, cannot be condoned. These disgraceful acts of public violence are damaging our economy and causing job losses, including to people from the affected areas,” said Mayco Member for Safety and Security Alderman JP Smith.
He continued, “The protests are also placing immense pressure on our enforcement services, which means resources are being diverted from other areas that are in need of policing. What is encouraging is that numerous arrests have been made for public violence, particularly relating to the protests in Strand and Blackheath, but the criminal justice system does not have a strong track record of achieving convictions. We will continue to bear the brunt of violent protests until the criminal justice system cracks down on these acts of wanton destruction.”