Residents speak out against violent protests

Joe Slovo and Phoenix residents have accused SAPS of allowing protesters to terrorise the community with violent protests.

Joe Slovo residents say they have had enough of the violence in their community that has in recent weeks seen two schools torched.

On Tuesday night July 21, Sinenjongo High School’s hall and a garbage truck were set alight in Joe Slovo. The night before, Marconi Beam Primary School’s library was destroyed in a fire.

Sinenjongo, which cost R47 million to build and opened in 2016, has been a source of pride to Joe Slovo.

The school’s 2018 matric cohort scored an 85% pass rate and the larger 2019 class scored 78%. After the release of the 2019 results in January, principal Khuselwa Nopote said they meant many of her pupils would be able to go to university.

Education MEC Debbie Schafer condemned the attacks on the schools, calling them “disgraceful acts of thuggery” that further harm children’s education at a time when teaching and learning were already difficult.

“We cannot say at this point when the damaged buildings will be replaced,” she said. “The department’s budget has just been slashed again, and other schools and areas have been waiting patiently for a long time to receive schools and halls. We will not prioritise schools that are destroyed over others that have been patiently waiting for facilities. This destruction must stop.”

WCED spokeswoman Bronagh Hammond said the cost of the damages had yet to be determined. Milnerton SAPS spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said they were investigating the burning of the two schools.

Mzimkhulu Sopeni, a community leader in Joe Slovo, was on the scene after the Sinenjongo attack. He said he partly blamed SAPS because community leaders had warned them on Tuesday night July 21 – the day after the Marconi Beam attack and just hours before the attack on Sinenjongo – that more attacks were likely.

“SAPS didn’t take us seriously, and this is the result. Of course we do not condone – we actually condemn – acts of violence by a minority of people living among us. But SAPS could have done more to help,” he said.

When asked about that allegation, Captain Madyib said they had met with Joe Slovo and Phoenix community leaders and were “committed to work hand in hand in dealing with the protests”. Joe Slovo resident Nomvula Maxhobo said the few who were terrorising the majority of residents needed to be arrested.

“They don’t care about the well-being of our community. They are opportunists because I can guarantee that these are the same people who do the land invasions even though they have houses in Joe Slovo already. They invade land just to resell it to other poor people. They need to be caught by authorities,” she said.

According to the City’s Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Jermaine Carelse, seven firefighting vehicles, a rescue vehicle, a helicopter as well as 30 staff members attended to the fire at Sinenjongo and took around an hour and a half to extinguish it. The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined and there were no injuries.

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said the City condemned land invasions on both private and public property because it retarded service delivery.

“The City also strongly condemns any violence, intimidation or threats,” he said, noting that the public could report crime anonymously to 112 from a cellphone (toll free) and 107 from a landline or 021 480 7700 for emergencies.