School bus stoned in taxi protest

KAREN KOTZE AND MICHELLE SAFFER

A school bus was stoned during taxi-related protests at Masiphumelele on Tuesday May 10 and principal of Fish Hoek High School, Gavin Fish, commended his senior pupils for their selfless actions during the attack.

“When the stoning took place, it was very clear that they were not throwing stones at the body of the bus but were throwing them at the windows so that they would shatter. I must commend the senior students who got the juniors down on the floor and covered them with their bodies.”

Mr Fish said Golden Arrow provided five buses to pick up Fish Hoek High School and Fish Hoek Primary School pupils from Kommetjie, Ocean View and Masiphumelele. This bus, which was stoned when it stopped at the Kommetjie Road bus stop next to the Capri traffic lights, was one of these.

The Masiphumelele pupils had opted to walk to school instead of using the buses.

Alan Robb said his 14-year-old son was on the bus, and reported that the first rock smashed against the window next to his son’s friend’s head.

“The bus driver pulled over to the bus stop but realised that the group outside were not paying customers and that they were up to no good, so he kept the doors locked and drove away. The kids on the bus received counselling and many of them now are nervous about taking any form of public transport,” he said.

“As a parent I am very irritated, we should not breeze over these things and allow our children’s point of view of the world to be taken over with these things,” he said.

Mr Robb said he went in person to a SAPS van in Masi to find out what assurance can be given that this won’t happen again. “Of course, there are no such assurances, and the worry is that the outbursts are sporadic and erratic and can’t be predicted.”

In addition to the school bus being stoned, two Ocean View taxis were attacked and had their tyres slashed and money taken from the drivers, and numerous residents of Masi were intimidated into staying home by other residents, many of whom were women in dressing gowns, wielding big sticks.

The current situation in Masi has its roots in the protest action planned by some residents who support community activist Lubabalo Vellem.

Mr Vellem was arrested last year in connection with several so-called mob justice incidents in Masi. He faces charges of murder, attempted murder, public violence and assault with the intent to do grievous bodily harm.

The protests in Masi started in September last year after Imhoff Waldorf student Amani Pula was murdered and a 24-year-old woman was raped. Community activists and residents began by protesting the lack of policing in the area. This then escalated to the so-called mob justice incidents where the residents claimed they were trying to root out drug dealers and the criminal element in the area. One man, Skhumbuzo Gqamana, was beat-en then burned alive, and other incidents of mob violence oc-curred.

At least one man, Siphokazi Katamzi, claims to have been incorrectly targeted by this system, and told the Echo that he and his family barely escaped with their lives, while Sivuyile Phoselo, a young resident of Masi who was his son’s friend, was dragged from his home and necklaced on October 9, last year.

Mr Vellem was released on bail of R5 000 on November 2, last year. Part of his bail conditions specified that he is to stay with his sister in Khayelitsha, he is to report to a police station three times a week, and he is not allowed into Masi.

It was his court appearance last week, on Tuesday May 3, in Simon’s Town, which is believed to have sparked the latest upsets.

Kathy Cronje of the Ocean View Community Police Forum said that last week, some residents in Masi wanted to use the Masi taxi rank to gather, and walk to Simon’s Town in a show of support for Mr Vellem.

She said information she had been given was that the taxi drivers had said no, as this would cost them a day’s work. These residents then retaliated by forcing all Masi residents to boycott the taxis, and then in turn, the taxi drivers had said if they cannot work, nor would the residents: hence the clash between residents and taxi drivers; who refused to let them use their own transport, be collected, nor walk to work or school.

Some residents in the community support Mr Vellem because they believe drug dealers would be ousted from their community through acts of mob violence, but that not all residents believe this, resulting in factions within the community itself.

On Monday May 9, some residents again intimidated other residents who wanted to get to work, and on Tuesday May 10, others stoned the school bus and attacked the two Ocean View taxis.

Ms Cronje explained that three different meetings had been held over the past week and weekend, with residents of Masi, various taxi drivers and taxi associations, community elders and SAPS representatives, including Mark Wiley, whose portfolio includes Community and Safety, Education and Social Development.

“On Saturday night, at the last meeting at Xhosa Square which was about three hours long, there was an agreement reached between those present – nearly 2 000 people – taxi drivers present at this meeting apologised to the community, and a truce was called,” she said.

However, this was then later annulled by other Masi residents who were not present at that meeting. These residents said that they did not recognise the agreement because they did not consider the community leaders who were at that meeting to be their leaders, and therefore did not find the agreement binding. They also said that the taxi drivers who apologised were from other communities and they needed an apology from the local taxi drivers which had not been forthcoming.”

Ward councillor Felicity Purchase said information she was given points to actions of people outside the area, such as illegal taxi operators.

On various news sites there were reports of taxis from outside of the area, a claim which has not been confirmed by SAPS but noted by community members. “There is also a lot of intimidation from the youth in Masi, against anyone wanting to go to work. People are being pulled out of vehicles,” Ms Purchase said.

“The problem is that these community leaders will not produce leaders; when a peaceful solution is reached, then other members of the community come forward and say the leaders are not their leaders, and they continue with the situation,” she said.

Ms Purchase added: “I feel there is a genuine desire to reach peace by the larger Masi community, as they want to get to work and the taxis are their primary mode of transport. However, there appears to be a group that are trying to force the taxis not to operate. This is not only illegal but unreasonable,” she said.

“The taxis have a right to operate so long as they stay within the law. The residents have a right to choose how to get to work, but also should respect the rights of others.”

Ms Purchase said that intimidation is illegal, and it needs to be reported.