Masiphumelele residents angered by arrest of community leader

| GroundUp Staff
Access into and out of Masiphumelele was blocked by residents on Friday.

While the student demonstrations were taking place, the sporadic protests that have been taking place in Masiphumelele resumed in the early hours of Friday morning after a community leader was arrested.

Lubabalo Vellem has been at the forefront of demands by Masiphumelele’s residents for better policing in the township. He was arrested on Thursday. According to a community resident, Vellem was arrested at Longbeach Mall on Thursday for reasons that are unclear. When Vellem arrived at the mall, he was escorted out of the mall by six people, according to eyewitnesses from Masiphumelele.

Residents met in the community hall later on Thursday to discuss the arrest. Then at about 8pm, approximately ten taxis packed with residents went to Wynberg Police Station, where he was believed to be held, to ask why Vellem was arrested. But the residents were not allowed to see him.

Residents returned to Masiphumelele and held a late night community meeting. The decision was taken to protest until Vellem is released. Community members went door-to-door to mobilise people, and protests started late Thursday night.

In the early hours of Friday, residents blocked all access to Masiphumelele. Only nightshift workers, mostly security guards, were allowed to return to the township. The community also blocked the road to Ocean View and Kommetjie, but residents of those neighbourhoods could get home by alternative routes.

According to a Masiphumelele resident, police at Ocean View station, which serves Masiphumelele, said the arrest was out of his jurisdiction, because Vellem was being held in Wynberg. The resident said a similar answer was given by the Fish Hoek police station.

The road to Kommetjie and Ocean View was unblocked on Friday, but access in and out of Masiphumelele was stopped until about 11pm.

At a community meeting on Sunday, it was decided that because matrics are writing exams and children have not been to school since Thursday, they would allow children to go to school, but no one should go to work.

On Monday, containers and bricks blocking the roads remain in parts of Masiphumelele and residents have to walk to the entrance of the township to catch taxis.

Vellem appeared in Simon’s Town Magistrates’ Court today. Households in Masiphumelele were asked to donate R20 in case he gets bail, and to pay for a lawyer.

He appeared on charges of murder, attempted murder, public violence and assault. The case was postponed to 30 October 2015. Vellem is currently in a cell at Mitchell’s Plain Police Station.

TOPICS:  Crime

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