Westlake protest fury

Protest organiser Amanda Mbanda reads the memorandum of service delivery demands with supporter Jennifer Fodo.

A high school, a library, a taxi rank, speed humps on every road, a community hall and sports facility are in the memorandum of demands Westlake Village residents gave to their councillor following protests this week.

Things turned sour on Monday June 4 as protesters lobbed petrol bombs and rocks and manned barricades of burning tyres at the entrance to Westlake Business Park on Steenberg Road.

Traffic was diverted, taxis could not operate, workers could not get to their jobs as businesses and Reddam schools closed and the American Consulate notified visa applicants to stay out of the area.

Spokesperson for the protesters, Amanda Mbanda, said they had blocked the road to deny access to anyone working in the area so they could join the protest.

About 30 people gathered at 6.30am to burn tyres and blockade Steenberg Road and the footbridge at Otter Crescent that provides access for Westlake residents to Reddam Avenue.

The repair of his vandalised bridge is among the demands listed in the memorandum (“Wetland bridge burnt,” Bulletin, May 17).

Just after 8am, police fired teargas in response to protesters throwing petrol bombs and rocks and preventing firefighters from dowsing flames.

Kirstenhof police commander Lieutenant Colonel June Cilliers left to negotiate with ward councillor Penny East who later told the Bulletin that Lieutenant Colonel Cilliers had asked her to go to Westlake, but she had refused to because of the lawlessness in the area. She had instead agreed to meet a delegation of protesters at Tokai library.

Meanwhile, Ms Mbanda argued that there was nothing in the permit against burning tyres. Permission was granted for the protest to take place at the planned time of 10am when about 500 protesters walked the 8.5km route along Steenberg, Orpen and Spaansch“I have always felt empathy with Westlake community since 2011 when I was voted in as the ward councillor,” she said.

Before the protesters arrived, Ms East told the Bulletin she was saddened by the action and not deserving of it.

She said the unrest had started three to four months ago when backyard dwellers had attempted a land grab in the Westlake wetland, pegging off the site, but law enforcement had stopped them from moving onto the land.

Then a group of about eight residents had asked to meet with her.

“They were eloquent about the housing situation and the harsh conditions under which they are living,” said Ms East.

This meeting had been followed by another in Westlake where the same group of people had asked for permission to occupy the wetland.

“It’s a wetland and in terms of South African law it is not suitable for habitation.

“It’s also outside of my ability to allow them to occupy the land. The meeting broke down. They said I had failed them, I was useless to them,” said Ms East.

Kirstenhof Police spokeswoman Sergeant Diedre Solomon said the name on the application for the protest was Matthew Adams and the organisation was the South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO). Mr Adams had contacted the Bulletin about the protest on Wednesday May 30 and listed grievances.

At the time he said he was registering a committee of about 10 people as the Westlake Community Development Forum.

However, Ms Mbanda said Sanco had not been involved in the protest, nor had any other organisation, only residents.

Ms Mbanda said Ms East kept making promises but did not deliver.

“The land promised to us for housing has been sold to businesses,” she said.

Resident Charmaine Mandonlana said the community needed many basic services including a clinic. “In this place, we have no clinic. People have to catch two taxis to get to the clinic in Retreat,” she said.

Provincial police spokeswoman Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana said the protest had started at about 1am.

“They were burning tyres, and it led to road closures.

“Two men aged 22 and 32 were arrested for public violence,” said Sergeant Rwexana.

Ms East said she would respond to the memorandum within seven days.

emat River roads to the Alphen Centre in Constantia.

Before the protesters arrived, Ms East told the Bulletin she was saddened by the action and not deserving of it.