Joe Slovo up in flames

People have been cautioned to steer clear of Joe Slovo after a recent spate of arson attacks in the area.

Over the weekend, a MyCiTi bus was gutted by fire while another two were set alight later in the evening. Then, on Monday June 26, the violence increased as Joe Slovo community hall in Freedom Way, and Kulunathi Hall in Democracy Way, were both torched as well.

Although there is no clear motive for the recent attacks, there is suspicion that it has to do with the vacant land at the old Sinenjongo High School site.

On Sunday June 25, shortly after 2pm, a nine-metre MyCiTi bus operating along feeder route 261 was attacked along Freedom Way.

Law Enforcement spokesman Wayne Dyason said the attack was a “violent retaliation” to the Anti-Land Invasion Unit which destroyed 20 structures built on the old Sinenjongo school site.

The protest comes only three weeks after the unregistered Khozi Primary School, which ran from the old Sinenjongo site, was shut down by Law Enforcement.

On Wednesday June 7, Law Enforcement had showed residents a court order before hauling away the mobile classrooms.

One day later, the principal’s office at Marconi Beam Primary School in Dunoon was set alight (“School’s office torched”, Tabletalk, June 21).

While there was speculation that Khozi Primary’s closure and Marconi Beam Primary’s fire were connected, given their timing, the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) had, at the time, not been able to confirm whether this was the case.

Meanwhile, the City of Cape Town’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, has called the attack on the bus “senseless and shocking” and wants the perpetrators to be brought to task.

“Those who randomly destroy our public transport infrastructure when aggrieved are depriving law-abiding residents of their right to affordable, accessible and safe public transport. Our rail system is already crippled by the ongoing sabotage and violent attacks, and thousands of commuters have shifted to road-based public transport as a result,” said Mr Herron.

ER24 spokesman Werner Vermaak said they had attended the scene on Sunday and that no injuries were reported. Mr Herron also added that the bus driver had escaped unharmed.

After the Joe Slovo community hall was gutted, JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security, and social services, released a statement saying the facility would remain close until further notice and that the fire had destroyed almost all the ceiling boards of the hall.

“This is particularly hard to swallow when just yesterday (Monday June 26) the Department of Recreation and Parks finished extensive repairs to all ceiling boards and doors in this facility after years of motivating for the funding for these repairs,” said Mr Smith.

He added that no room within the hall had been spared in the “act of violence”, pointing out that the kitchen and store room which housed all the recreation equipment had been destroyed by the fire as well.

On Monday evening, Milnerton Crime Watch reported on their Facebook page that everything was “under control” in Joe Slovo, but warned people to “avoid the area and avoid it tomorrow”

In the same post, they said: “Plan a route around it. The volatility may last a day or two so work a plan around it for yourselves and domestics etc. Do not let curiosity draw you to go down and see what’s happening.”

Chairman of the Phoenix Neighbourhood Watch (PNW), Russel Capes, said the area was in a complete mess and that the violence was “creeping into Phoenix”.

“Our lives are being affected. They say everything is under control but it’s not. What happens when the violence spills over to Milnerton central?” asked Mr Capes, who recalled smelling the smoke billowing from the MyCiTi bus on Sunday afternoon. He said he was pulling PNW members back because he feared for their safety.

“There have been rumours of SAPS vehicles being stoned. I’m not sending my men out there to assist. What chance do we have as civilians?”.

Milnerton Community Policing Forum (CPF) chairwoman Lianne Lippert slammed the attacks as criminal.

“My concern is for community members who are being held at ransom. It’s criminal holding the community hostage like this,” said Ms Lippert.