14 September 2017

South Africa: Police Teams and Drone Keeping Close Eye On Kleinmond Following Protests

Police officers are stationed in nyalas around the seaside town of Kleinmond which on Wednesday was the scene of violent protests which turned the area into what some residents have described as a warzone.

Several shops are also closed and those that are open are running on a skeleton staff as several workers have remained at home.

A joint operations centre, comprising several policing units and other authorities, has been set up in the area and is operational all day and night.

On Thursday afternoon community leaders were said to be meeting with several politicians and a Human Rights Commission representative.

Brigadier Donovan Heilbron, the police's cluster Commander for the Overberg, which includes the areas of Kleinmond, Hermanus and Gansbaai, said he was then going to meet residents.

Protests previously broke out in the Overhills informal settlement in Kleinmond and flared up on Wednesday.

"Petrol bombs were thrown at police, some police officers were injured," Heilbron said.

"A fear has been created," he said.

Red Ants hired for assistance

Residents are unhappy, for among other reasons, that a cleaning tender was awarded to someone, not from the area.

They are also unhappy about the state of the cemetery and how full it is.

On Thursday two law enforcement cars were stationed outside the cemetery.

Nyalas were stationed around the town and several patches on the main road appeared blackened. This was from where residents had blockaded the road on Wednesday and burned items.

Heilbron told News24 he was juggling resources to try and ensure peace in the area.

A drone was used by police earlier during the day to take aerial photographs of the area. This was to provide them visual access to areas they could not easily see on foot.

The Red Ants eviction company had been hired to ensure basic services, for example the removal of rubbish, were carried out.

Four arrests

Heilbron said when he met residents later on Thursday he would take seriously complaints of police having acted heavy handed on Wednesday.

"I'll be the first one to report it to IPID."

A resident said the area has been so volatile that it resembled a warzone.

"There were helicopters putting out fires and Alden's everywhere. It was crazy."

At the entrance to an informal area, rocks and rubble remained from Wednesday's protests.

Two men eyed the News24 team wearily as they took photographs.

On Wednesday, a group of residents attacked and robbed a Netwerk24 photographer who was covering the protests.

Earlier, Western Cape police spokesperson Captain FC Van Wyk told News24 that four people had been arrested and would be charged with public violence.

The investigation into the attack and robbery of the photographer was still underway, he said.

No nearby high schools

A group of residents had gathered at Poppe Dorp, a suburb of Kleinmond, on Wednesday morning and started marching towards the R44 main road.

The protesters had not applied for permission to march and, instead of dispersing as requested, they allegedly started throwing stones at police.

Van Wyk said police had been threatened, and rubber bullets were fired to disperse the group, resulting in clashes which lasted until 15:00.

He said SA Human Rights Commission representative Chris Nissen, Overstrand Mayor Rudolph Smith and Overberg police cluster commander for Brigadier Donovan Heilbron eventually met community representatives on Wednesday afternoon, and a truce was declared.

Western Cape Community Safety MEC Dan Plato was attending a meeting in the area on Thursday morning to find out if he could assist, his spokesperson Ewald Botha said.

According to local ANC councillor Vuyani Macotha, other unresolved issues compounded their anger including the fact that there was no nearby high school in the area, which meant that children had to wake up early to catch a bus to Hermanus, which was between 20 and 25km away.

School children also had to spend about roughly eight hours at school, and then travel back home on the long bus ride, he said.

Children who reached adulthood and graduated from university or college also couldn't find a place of their own to live in the town, upon their return, because no new housing had been built, he explained.

"If the municipality wants to stimulate growth, it must look at ways of giving people in the area preference," he said.

In the meantime, an undertone of racism has complicated matters, with voice notes doing the rounds claiming that white residents will be targeted and their houses burnt down.

Macotha said he doubted that was true because actions like that, besides being completely unconstitutional, would also cause massive unemployment in the already struggling area.

Comment from Mayor Smith was not immediately available.

Source: News24

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