Two classrooms destroyed amid land invasion unrest

Marconi Beam Primary School had two of its classes torched on Monday night. This happened during ongoing unrest in Joe Slovo.

Marconi Beam Primary School was torched on Monday night, following land-invasion unrest in Joe Slovo.

On Sunday, City law enforcement officers removed shacks built illegally on land in Freedom Way.

This land has been the target of illegal invasions for a while now, going back to the beginning of June.

According to Joe Slovo community leader, Mzimkhulu Sopeni, land invaders occupied the site on Saturday night and law enforcement came the next day to remove shacks.

“Marconi Beam Primary School was torched on Monday night. We don’t know if that is directly linked to this protest but that is the only source of unrest in the community at the moment, so we can’t say the fire is not related,” he said.

According to the school’s principal, Bukelwa Makubalo, intruders broke into the school grounds on Monday night and set classrooms alight.

“Two classrooms were torched. We don’t know what the motive is for attacking the school.

“Three years ago, the school was set alight during a protest in the area. The children are already struggling because of the ongoing pandemic, and now their learning is negatively impacted by this.

“Police were informed of the fire last night (Monday). Unfortunately, this seems to be happening all over the Western Cape, where schools are being torched and vandalised.”

Marconi Beam Primary School’s secretary, Poppy Louw, said one of the two classrooms was a library, while the other was a prefab classroom for Grade 5s.

“I live around the area. The school was broken into and burnt around 10pm. Unfortunately, the children have been sent home because of this,” she said.

Milnerton police are investigating a case of public violence and a case where a bakkie was set alight.

Spokeswoman Captain Nopaya Madyibi said: “Around 10am on Sunday, Joe Slovo residents were protesting for the piece of land opposite the community hall. They want to build shacks. The protesters burnt tyres and set alight a Nissan bakkie. The owner of the bakkie opened a case and also a case of public violence was registered in Milnerton. No arrests have been made and the case is under investigation.”

Mayoral committee member for human settlements Malusi Booi said land invasions were not only illegal, they also posed fire, safety, health and flood risks.

“Having various new settlements forming in an unplanned manner also poses a risk to the City’s informal settlements Covid-19 response. The City also has no budget allocated to potential new unplanned settlements formed through illegal occupation. We condemn land invasions on both, private- and City-owned property because these actions are illegal and consequently impact on service delivery to other residents,” he said.

Mr Booi said the City was within its rights to remove illegally built vacant structures and such action did not amount to an eviction.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Sopeni said that the protest was still happening.

“The residents should have a sit-down with the councillor of this area, Mr Booi and other relevant parties. We have had informal chats with Phoenix Ratepayers and they are also on board to solve this issue as it also affects them as well in terms of property values,” he said.

Mr Booi said the City would continue to remove unoccupied and illegal structures to prevent illegal occupation of land and protect land from being invaded.

The police did not respond to questions about the torching of the school by the time this issue went to print.