11 May 2017

South Africa: Parents Defend School From Protesters

Photo: Ihsaan Haffejee/GroundUp
Concerned parents stand outside Mid-Ennerdale Primary School protecting it against vandals as protests continued in Johannesburg’s southern suburbs.

"We are fighting for development but we don't want our infrastructure to be demolished by those with criminal intentions."

Community members and parents from Ennerdale rallied together to protect a local primary school from being torched and vandalised by fellow community members who continued to protest for the fourth consecutive day.

A few parents noticed protesters trying to gain access to Mid-Ennerdale Primary School and alerted nearby residents and the local Community Police Forum to the danger. Within minutes a large crowd had mobilised and made it clear that they would not tolerate property damage or theft at the school.

Protests over housing and land have been ongoing in suburbs in the south of Johannesburg since Monday. However looting and infrastructure damage have threatened to overshadow the concerns of the protesters.

On a visit to the Eldorado Park police station on Wednesday night Minister of Police Fikile Mbalula said that while citizens have a constitutional right to protest, criminality in the form of looting and destruction of property would not be allowed by the police.

Valerie Moses of the Ennerdale Stakeholder's Association condemned today's violent protest action saying that a criminality element had manifested in some of the protests. Speaking outside the school she said that residents were distancing themselves from those engaging violently with the police. "We came here this morning because we heard people with criminal intentions are threatening to burn down this school. They are also threatening to burn down our clinic in Mid-Ennerdale," said Moses.

Earlier in the day protesters once again blocked the main roads using rocks and burning tyres but the crowd was significantly smaller than previous days as the main residents' body had agreed to suspend protests after they had a meeting with Johannesburg Council Speaker Vasco de Gama. Police were seen dispersing protesters with teargas and rubber bullets and maintaining a large presence in the area. Protesters claimed that a policeman had fired a teargas canister directly in the face of a demonstrator injuring him. Police on the scene refused to comment on the allegation.

"We are still fighting for development in the area but ... we don't want our existing infrastructure to be demolished by those with criminal intentions. We are also calling the community to come support us in protecting our schools and other institutions from being damaged," said Moses.

The Gauteng Provincial Government said that MEC for Human Settlements Paul Mashatile will visit Ennerdale and Eldorado Park on Friday to meet community task teams.

Relative calm was restored to the suburb late in the afternoon but most businesses remained closed while police maintained a large presence.

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