Protests close down Cape Town business district

Westlake marchers walk 8km to councillor’s office demanding housing

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Photo of march
Westlake protesters walked 8km to the councillor’s offices in Constantia. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

Westlake business district in Cape Town was shut down by protesters on Monday, with schools and businesses closed and taxis not operating. Protesters, who were demanding housing, marched 8km to hand over a memorandum at the city councillor’s office in Constantia.

When GroundUp arrived at 7am, residents had already gathered at the traffic lights between Steenberg Road and Westlake Drive, barricading the way into the area with burning tyres. Police fired teargas to disperse the crowd.

Residents had applied for permission to march to hand over a memorandum 8km away at the office of ward councillor Penny East (DA) in Constantia. Approximately 150 residents marched to the councillor’s office.

“We are protesting because we don’t see development in the area [Westlake]. We are not hooligans. If we were, we would have vandalised these businesses but we didn’t because that is not what we want,” said resident Chalene May.

“Westlake has become a business park and the needs of residents have taken a back seat while land that could benefit the community keeps being sold.”

May said the community needed many basic services.

“In this place we have no clinic. People have to catch two taxis to get to the clinic in Retreat,” said May.

Phumza Matinisi said she had been living as a backyarder in Westlake for 20 years.

Promises had been made of housing for backyarders “but now what we see is big business coming up and using the remaining land in the area”, she said.

“I live in a three metre shack with my three children and my husband has to stay at work because we do not have enough space for all of us to live in one place,” said Matinisi.

In the memorandum, residents asked for land for backyarders, a taxi rank, sports grounds, a clinic, a high school, a library, and speed bumps.

Shane Samuels and Nontsikelelo Bonkolo were both denied entry by the protesters into Westlake business park where they work. Samuels had been trying to get in from 6am for a shift which started at 7am.

“When I came in the morning around six, they didn’t want me to go in. I called my boss and he told me to wait for a while,” said Samuels.

Bonkolo from Delft stood waiting to find a way in to start work. Her shift had started two hours earlier at 7am.

“This is disturbing, I left home around five [in the morning] only to see that I cannot get into work. I have already spent R23 to get here. If do not report into work today, I will not get paid,” said Bonkolo.

A memorandum of demands was handed over to Councillor Penny East. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

East addressed the residents. “You have presented me with a very long and detailed document … I can assure you that I and the officials will carefully study this document. We will respond to you on each of the points that you make within the seven days that you have stipulated,” she said.

“I wish that I could wave a magic wand and make your lives immeasurably better in a very short time … Please understand that as a public servant I will do my very best for you as I have always have done,” said East.

SAPS spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana said the protest had started at about 1am.

“They were burning tyres and it led to road closures. Currently all roads are opened. Two men aged 22 and 32 were arrested for public violence,” said Rwexana.

TOPICS:  Government Housing

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