Violence erupts in Philippi on the eve of the elections

Protesters burn tyres, block roads, stone cars and set a bus alight. The car in which independent candidate Zackie Achmat was driving was shot at.

By Sandiso Phaliso

28 May 2024

Protesters blocked busy roads in Philippi, Cape Town with burning tyres. Photos: Sandiso Phaliso

Black smoke hung over Philippi on Tuesday evening as young people, many wearing balaclavas or masks, blocked major roads with burning tyres and rocks on the eve of the elections.

Traffic lights at the corner of Sheffield Road and New Eisleben were set alight. Motorists had to find alternative routes.

At nearby Vietnam road cars passing were stoned. The atmosphere was tense and small spaza shops, meat sellers and vegetable stores closed their doors fearing looting.

Earlier in the day a Golden Arrow bus was set alight near the bus depot.

It was not clear what the protests were about.

Last November angry residents disrupted the registration process for the elections, chasing away Independent Electoral Commission staff. But this year community leaders and police assured residents that there would be no disruptions.

On Tuesday evening GroundUp spoke to two community leaders on condition of anonymity as they were afraid of intimidation.

“What is happening here, the destruction of property and roads, threatening of innocent people and motorists going about their lives is all political, trying to sabotage the elections tomorrow. It is the same people who will complain tomorrow that the roads need to be fixed but they themselves are destroying them,” said one community leader.

On Tuesday afternoon there was an attempted hijacking of the car that independent candidate Zackie Achmat was in. He and members of his team were driving through Philippi to campaign for Wednesday’s election when at least two men attempted to hijack their car. One of the men fired at the car, lodging a bullet hole in it. Achmat and his team escaped. No one was hurt. Achmat said he did not think he was personally targeted.

Another community leader said the acts of violence should be condemned. “The people doing all this are known, and if we were all truthful and really wanted peace in our community we would hold them accountable. But we are all afraid of being identified.”

Two law enforcement vehicles arrived about 45 minutes after the group of people started burning the tyres. The protesters dispersed, throwing stones at the officers.