Masi unrest grows

MICHELLE SAFFER

About 1000 people blocked Pokela Road in Masiphumelele on Tuesday May 3 while groups of Masiphumelele residents walked to Simon’s Town Magistrate’s court as a show of support for community members who were charged after the violent protests in Masiphumelele last year.

Due to appear in court was Lubalalo Vellem who is charged with murder, attempted murder, public violence and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The protests started in September after Imhoff Waldorf pupil Amani Pula was murdered and a 24-year-old woman had been raped.

Angry about the lack of effective policing in the community, protests grew in September and October, focusing on the need to remove drugs and drug dealers from the community.

Incidents of mob violence occurred as community members allegedly tried to root out criminals in their midst. At least one man, 32-year-old Skhumbuzo Gqamana was beaten and set alight as was a police van and an SA Navy bus as the protests spread.

Mr Vellem was one of the people arrested and spent about two weeks in custody before being released on bail of R5000 on November 2 last year.

Part of Mr Vellem’s bail conditions is that he reports to a police station three times a week and that he does not enter Masiphumelele. Mr Vellem was ordered to stay with his sister in Khayelitsha for the duration of the court case. Hundreds of people cheered outside the court in a show of support for the man identified as a community leader. He appeared in court again in January when the case was postponed to this week.

About 150 Masiphumelele residents took to the streets on Monday May 2, the night before his court appearance, marching down the new entrance to Masiphumelele, Houmoed Avenue in Fish Eagle Park, and at 9pm started singing and walking towards Ocean View police station, along Kommetjie Road, blocking one side of the road.

On the day of the court appearance, people gathered at the Pokela Road entrance to Masiphumelele from about 5am.

About 1 000 people crowded into Pokela Road, blocking all traffic to and from the area with taxis at a standstill, while crowds milling on Kommetjie Road made it difficult at times for traffic to pass.

The Echo attempted to speak to some of the people but most were angry and refused to comment. Some people, who were trying to get to work, said they would not speak because the large group of protesters behind them would know they had spoken to the press and this would create problems. A group of women with sticks was seen talking forcefully to people trying to walk to work.

The Echo’s attempts to take photos of protesters led to angry shouts of “No pictures!”

Three groups of people left to walk to the courts, the biggest group being just fewer than 100 people, the smallest about 30 people. SAPS had issued permission for a march of 1000 people to walk from Masiphumelele to Simon’s Town court.

The larger group which had been blocking Pokela Road never left and by 11am they had moved to the side of the road, allowing traffic in and out of Masiphumelele.

Captain Angie Latchman, corporate communications for SAPS Wynberg Cluster, which the area falls under, said Mr Vellem had appeared in the Simon’s Town Magistrates Court on Tuesday May 3. The court appearance related to an application to relax his bail conditions.

She confirmed that SAPS had received an application from the Masiphumelele community for a march, for which permission was granted.