Police came under fire during a protest in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town, on Monday as the City called on land owners to take reasonable steps to protect their properties from “invasion”.
News24 journalist Zukile Daniel said a group of people joined protesters and started shooting at the police who were trying to hold them off on Eisleben Road, a main route through the area, on Monday afternoon.
Police officers were wearing their protective gear, but ran for cover behind their police bakkies as their fortified Nyalas had not arrived on the scene yet.
One policewoman drew her service pistol as she took cover behind a police vehicle, following the shooting mid-afternoon.
One officer‘s car was hit by a bullet.
Shortly afterwards, the area was saturated with more police vehicles, City law enforcement and traffic police for back-up.
Police fired rubber bullets to keep the armed people at bay.
They could not be reached immediately for comment.
In the meantime, the City of Cape Town has asked the police to form a priority committee on protest action, after noting a 73% spike in protests from the same period last year.
JP Smith, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Safety and Security, said that during a meeting with police and members of Western Cape Legislature last week, the City was told that there had been 145 protest actions in the first four and a half months of 2018. This was compared with 84 during the same period in 2017.
“This represents a 73% increase in protest incidents that have grown progressively more violent,” said Smith.
He said the City‘s Anti-land Invasion Unit removed, on average, 15 000 illegal structures and/or pegs per annum.
“However, in the first four months of 2018, that figure is standing at over 26 000,” said Smith.
He said the City would take a “zero-tolerance” approach to attempted “land grabs” across the metro, and urged private owners of land to take “reasonable” steps to protect their property from invasion.
Police stand on the lookout in Woodlands after residents opened fire on them. (Zukile Daniel)
“They must ensure that interdicts are in place if required; that they follow legal procedures to get trespassing orders in place if need be; and take all necessary safeguard measures, such as hiring private protection firms to guard their land 24/7. “
Numbers to call were Public Emergency Communication Centre on 107 from a landline, or on from a cellphone, to provide anonymous information about “land invasions”, he said.
The City would continue to remove unoccupied, illegally erected structures and plot demarcation pegs.
Conflict areas identified
Smith said, so far, the police had identified 34 conflict areas.
“Just in the last week, we have had protests in Vrygrond, Parkwood, Bo-Kaap, Ocean View, Gugulethu, Macassar, Khayelitsha, Robert Sobukwe Road and 35th Avenue, Milnerton, Dunoon and Mitchells Plain.”
He said 115 people had been arrested and charged in connection with the protests and, while the City understood legitimate service delivery concerns, it was becoming “more and more apparent that many of these legitimate issues are being hijacked by others with criminal and political intent”.
Legal protests were approved by the City daily, but destruction of property and endangering lives could not be defended or tolerated, he added.