Cape service delivery protest turns ugly

Aug 17

2009 protest in South Africa

Rats chomping children, dogs blasted with bullets, a baby in jail and the homeless stealing burning tyres.

It sounds like a script for a movie.

But this is reality for the residents of Pooke se Bos informal settlement in the middle-class neighbourhood of Rylands in Cape Town.

Yesterday more than 500 residents of the settlement staged a tense service delivery protest by burning tyres and peppering the street with rubbish and bricks.

“We don’t want it all for free. We are willing to pay what we can,” said furious mother Willita Anthony.

She said she has been living in the informal settlement for more than a decade.

Like most residents, she has been on the housing waiting list for about five years.

More than a dozen police officers swooped in with a water cannon mounted on an armoured vehicle.

Residents also complained that local government officials promised to build a fence around their settlement situated less than two metres from a busy road on which, they claim, their children are “killed like flies”.

“Get into your f***ing homes,” screamed an armed officer repeatedly.

The standoff lasted for several hours, and 14 people were arrested.

Warrant officer Ian Bennet from the Athlone Police Station said a woman and her infant had also been taken into custody.

“The baby wasn’t arrested. But the mother was and she had the right to insist that she has her baby with her,” he said.

But he denied that rubber bullets or any other ammunition had been used on the protesters.

“We only used the water cannon at the illegal gathering,” he said.

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