Several hundreds of protesters demonstrating for better service delivery in South Africa have clashed with police, hurling a petrol bomb at police officers, blocking roads and set tyres alight in Cape Town, according to local media reports.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the demonstrators and temporarily closed the main access route to the Cape Town International Airport from the highway, as part of a series of service delivery protests to hit the city on Friday.
“Currently on the scene it is quiet but very tense still,” Captain Frederick van Wyk, police spokesman, said, adding that the road was being cleared.
“”The events of this week have proved beyond any doubt that these protests are not actually about service delivery problems or legitimate demands of the poor, but are rather the result of the manipulations of the ANCYL. “
– Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town
Police arrested 62 people and more than 500 people were driven away from an area of informal settlements bordering the N2 highway which is a main artery in and out of the city.
“We can confirm that one petrol bomb was thrown at the police but there was no damage and no injuries to policemen,” Van Wyk told the AFP news agency, saying the protest was over demands for government service delivery.
Cape Town authorities have blamed recent protests on threats by the youth wing of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) party to make the city ungovernable.
In her weekly newsletter on Friday, Patricia de Lille, Cape Town’s mayor, said the protests appeared to be driven by the “reckless political rhetoric of the African National Congress Youth league (ANCYL) and other groupings”.
“The events of this week have proved beyond any doubt that these protests are not actually about service delivery problems or legitimate demands of the poor, but are rather the result of the manipulations of the ANCYL,” she wrote.
However, the Independent online reported that Mfuzo Zenzile, ANCYL regional secretary, rejected claims that members were involved in the protest on a political level.
“Yes there are ANCYL members living in that community. The protest was claiming service delivery issues … they are part of the protest as members of the community. There is not a hidden agenda,” he said.
The organisation would nonetheless meet its members in the area to determine what happened during the protest, Zenzile said.
The Western Cape province and Cape Town are the only province and metropolitan area governed by the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA).
Helen Zille, DA leader, and de Lille laid criminal complaints last week relating to intimidation against the ANCYL and others over a call for unrest if a memorandum with several demands were not met.