Some Zwelihle residents claim they have not been able to access police and medical assistance since violent protests flared up in the Hermanus community on Tuesday last week…
Residents took to the streets to demand the release of Zwelihle Renewal leader Gcobani Ndzongana, who was arrested for incitement and destruction of property.
“It is difficult for us to go into the community, because protesters have dug trenches in the roads. Zwelihle has become completely inaccessible,” police spokesperson Colonel Luthando Nosilela said.
Despite reaching a “peace agreement” with police and government officials‚ around 3‚000 people attempted to storm through a police barricade to reach the town centre on Wednesday. Damages in the area have reportedly risen to over R40m due to violent protest action.
The Hermanus Animal Welfare Society issued a statement on Facebook stating that there have been a number of incidents of animal torture during the protests.
“The Hermanus Animal Welfare Society condemns in the strongest terms the appalling incident where one of the Zwelihle protesters swung a cat on a rope and then threw it in a fire. We cannot identify the perpetrator of this criminal act, and we trust that there are members of the community who will come forward and give the police information.”
Protests led by a few
According to reports from those in the area, the protests are being led by “around 500 activists” who are intimidating over residents into complying with the protest action. Any residents who try to leave the area, or assist emergency workers are turned on by protesters.
“Two women who were escorted home after work had to watch helplessly as their property was looted, their belongings dragged to the street and set alight by protesters who wanted to punish them for going to work to provide for their families,” said DA MPP, Masizole Mnqasela in a media statement on 13 July. “A select few members of Zwelihle insist on destabilising the community for their own gain.”
Injured residents unable to access medical help
Some residents who had been injured were 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 in the community had been blocked.
Siyathemba Qotyana is still traumatised after he was shot with rubber bullets during the protests on Friday.
“I got shot on the side of my face. I was scared for my life due to what’s going on,” Qotyana said.
“We don’t know when it’s going to stop. I’m scared to go outside or even buy something to eat. We don’t know what we’re going to eat tonight. You don’t know if your house is going to burn down. I wish I could have gone to the hospital, especially for the wound on my face, but I can’t drive my car here.”
“No benefit” to protests
“We have been protesting for five days now and we don’t see the benefit. We’re not going to get what we want,” Songezo Mavathi told News24.
“The protest is resulting in injury to our people. We are not getting what we want from the protest and our bosses are losing money too. Our employers need to convince our government to respond to our grievances.”
“We cannot allow a group of people to continue this criminal behaviour. People have the right to protest within the confines of the law, but this is no longer a protest. This has become an act violence and a total onslaught on the economy of the whole greater Hermanus,” said Mnqasela.
Meanwhile, community leaders have confirmed that the shutdown will continue
They say they have made plans to meet with police and government officials for negotiations.
“We are going to continue with the shutdown until we get answers. We are going to the meetings and hopefully there will be progress,” Zwelihle Renewal member Sicelo Gxamesi said.
His colleague Simphiwe Silwe said that the community was dedicated to the cause.
“We are the leaders of this community and they respect us. Whatever happens to us is their concern. If one person feels the pain, the whole community feels the pain,” Silwe said.
“The community is really angry about the incident. We had a problem earlier about the land. We will keep doing the same thing until they release him [Ndzongana].”
Ndzongana appeared in court on Thursday on charges of incitement and public destruction of property. However, the case has been postponed and the accused remanded in custody. Ndzongana’s case will be moved to a different court and would resume on Friday.
Police Minister Bheki Cele also plans to visit Hermanus on Friday to meet protesters.
Hermanus court: Accused Gcobani Ndzongana’s case postponed. Accused remanded in custody in Pollsmoor. Will appear again tomorrow elsewhere. Zwelihle is under siege by his thugs, who have cut the area off from all services, including medical support and refuse removal.
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) July 19, 2018
General Bheki Cele has again refused to send in the army to restore the rule of law in places where thugs have usurped the role of the state. That is what has happened in Zwelihle, where thugs won’t even allow refuse removal, or health or sanitation services. Army needed now!
— Helen Zille (@helenzille) July 19, 2018
— Democratic Alliance (@Our_DA) July 19, 2018