Riot sparks traffic chaos

RAMPAGING protesters forced police to close down parts of Vanguard Drive today as they burnt tyres and portable toilets and vandalised road signs and traffic lights.

Thousands of motorists were stuck in gridlocked traffic as police clashed with nearly 100 protesters, many in their early teens or younger.

The protesters threw rocks at police who in turn fired rubber bullets in their direction. There were no reports of injuries.

City of Cape Town traffic spokeswoman Merle Lourens said a section of Vanguard Drive between the R300 and Lansdowne Road, in both directions, was still closed at the time of going to press.

“Traffic is being diverted from there,” she said.

Protesters had also vandalised traffic lights and traffic signs along Vanguard Drive.

The city said Vanguard Drive had been closed along several key stretches – including around Duinefontein and Lansdowne roads, NY72, Weltevreden and Varkensvlei roads – causing a substantial diversion of traffic on to the N2, which became heavily congested.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton confirmed incidents of tyre burning and stone throwing.

The protest started in the early hours, with one couple saying they awoke to burning tyres and the sounds of protest.

“Our toddlers were so scared,” said the couple, who declined to be named.

A group of nearly 100 young men taunted police and at one point threatened to storm one of the Casspirs stationed on Vanguard Drive.

Groups of protesters also chased a photographer who fled to safety.

It took motorists more than an hour to get out of Mitchells Plain – a journey that usually takes 10 minutes.

Golden Arrow started diverting its buses onto Varkensvlei Road from just after 6am, leaving many commuters stranded at bus stops along Vanguard Drive.

At one point, protesters pulled portable toilets from nearby Sweet Home Farm in Philippi on to the road and set them alight.

None of the protesters was willing to speak to the Cape Argus.

However, onlookers said the protest was about the city cutting off electricity in the informal settlement.

This could not be confirmed at the time fo going to press.

This morning a pall of smoke hung over Vanguard Drive as police patrolled the area on foot and in police vans and Casspirs.

There were two rows of burning tyres across Vanguard Drive, which police doused with water.

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