Cape Town – Widespread protests over poor service delivery broke out in three South African major cities on Thursday, prompting police to fire rubber bullets and tear gas in some areas.
The protests came as the country prepares for its sixth general election on May 8 after the end of apartheid in 1994. Organisers said they want to take advantage of the election to let people pour out their grievances. In Cape Town, several streets were blocked by protesters who called for better service, particularly in impoverished townships.
The city’s biggest black township of Khayelitsha was like a battle field where tires were burned and roads blocked, with the sky darkened by black smoke.
Residents in Khayelitsha complained about what they say inaccurate water billing and disconnections over disputed amounts owed.
Hundreds of commuters were stranded as service at the Cape Town Civic Center station was suspended over security concerns. The protests affected public service, including health facilities, while some were shut down until further notice. A police man, who demanded anonymity, told Xinhua that he was stoned while trying to maintain order. “Protests in some areas turned violent, with no sign of abating,’’ he said, adding that police had to call in reinforcements.
According to him, protesters want better service; however their action made public service worse. Police said they had intelligence on the protests where criminal elements crept in. In a statement, the City of Cape Town condemned the violent protests as “politically instigated.”
“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of protests in the last six weeks, resulting in damaged infrastructure, service delivery disruptions and massive inconvenience to residents,’’ the statement said. According to the statement, during the protests, some people attempted to invade land belonging to the city.
In Johannesburg and Pretoria, similar protests also took place. In Johannesburg’s black township of Alexandra where protests had continued for over a week, human waste has been piling all over the streets.
The organisers of Shutdown Alexandra movement called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to visit the township and address their concerns. The cities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria are run by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), which claims that the current protests are fueled by the African National Congress (ANC).
DA leader Mmusi Maimane called for an urgent meeting with National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole to establish what plans are in place to put an end to the worsening anarchy, and restore law and order in the communities.
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