Cape Town – Residents of Lower Crossroads and Marikana Informal Settlement houses were burnt down following a violent clash between the two communities. It left four people dead, nine injured and more than 100 shacks burnt and nine brick houses set alight. Residents are slowly rebuilding their lives.
When Elitsha visited the area on Saturday morning of the 30th of May, the area looked liked a war zone with burnt cars. The street that separates the two communities was covered by rubber bullets and stun grenade shells, people carrying mattress on their heads and some pulling refuse bins full of roof sheets and other stuff. The people were going in the direction of Philippi and some towards Site C. This followed a week of protests by Marikana residents demanding that the City of Cape Town install water and toilets on the land they are occupying.
Many reasons have been put forward for the violence between the two communities. Tina Pamane from Lower Crossroads whose house was petrol bombed during the protest believes that it started when her house was attacked because some Lower Crossroads residents refused illegal electricity connection on poles near their homes. “They have tried several times to connect on the same pole as me and I turned them away.” Mandla Dulaze whose warehouse was burn to the ground in Marikana confirmed that the main reason for the violence and burning of people’s houses was the cutting of illegal electric connections. Some Lower Crossroads residents felt that the protest was inconveniencing them as the streets were closed and they had to walk long distances to catch taxi.
Paname lost her daughter in October 2014 after a car knocked her down next to her house, which is situated on the border of Lower Crossroads and Marikana. “I feel cursed and I really want to move out of this area,” said the 44-year old mother of two. She said her child who is in Grade 3 missed some of the exams.
Down the road from Paname we met Shiyekile Mtosona who has been staying at Lower Crossroads for more than 15 years. He said they burnt down his two shacks even though he has never refused anyone to connect on his line. “I’m really not sure why they did this, but it could be that we were easy targets as our houses lie on the border of Lower Crossroads.”
Thembekile (not his real name) from Marikana said that he witnessed everything. He told Elitsha that the police took sides as they were helping the “young gangsters” from Lower Crossroads to destroy and burn their shacks. “They were providing them with petrol to make petrol bombs, and I witnessed it with my own two eyes.” He also said that whenever they were trying to fight back the “young gangsters” from Lower Crossroads the police would fire at them. “The police were standing with them.”
Lieutenant Bheki Xulu from Phillipi East police station said there has been no official complaint from Marikana about the police taking sides. Xulu said that the police who were involved are highly trained for crowd management and they have to ensure that property is protected and that the parties that are in conflict are separated. The situation between the two communities, according to Xulu is calm because of the daily meetings that they have with leaders from both communities. “Only general crime cases have been reported to us,” said Xulu.
The City’s Disaster Risk Management Centre (DRMC) provided relief for 50 families in the form of food parcels and blankets.