PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - Plettenberg Bay was brought to a standstill during the three-day protest action last week that resulted in the closure of the N2, the death of an elderly woman who suffered respiratory failure allegedly triggered by teargas, and a Port Elizabeth woman who is fighting for her life after a brick was thrown at her car, not to mention damages estimated in the tens of millions of rands due to the "many illegal and criminal activities" sparked by the protest.
Some residents believe that a bus accident wherein three people died in the early hours of Friday morning after their bus had to take an alternative route to the N2 – via Airport Road – in pouring rain was a direct result of the protest action.
The unrest, which started in eQolweni on Tuesday night 2 July, only ended on Friday 5 July.
Bitou Municipality's senior communications official Manfred van Rooyen said the demonstrations were completely unlawful as no application had been made for a peaceful protest or march. "This protest was typified by violence, ransacking, looting, burglaries, housebreaking, malicious damage to property and many other illegal and criminal activities. The right for any protest to be legal and/or lawful always has a precondition that it must be peaceful. The protests of the past few days were anything but peaceful," Van Rooyen said.
He added that all municipal departments are in the process of completing insurance claims arising from damage to municipal assets, and that a full report will be compiled to determine the extent of the damage. "Unfortunately the municipality cannot account for losses to affected businesses or individuals," said Van Rooyen.
'Adequate resources deployed'
Knysna police communications official Sergeant Chris Spies, acting as the provincial police's spokesperson in the absence of Captain Malcolm Pojie who is on leave, said members of the local police were immediately deployed to the affected area when reports about the protest action came through.
According to him, adequate police resources were used to restore law and order. "This includes additional resources from public order policing from Cape Town as well as Paarl, and members trained in crowd control management from neighbouring stations," he said.
81 suspects arrested
Spies added that 81 suspects were arrested on various charges during the course of the protests.
He also said that a case of attempted murder was opened with regard to the Port Elizabeth woman who was hit with a brick. "No arrest has been made because this investigation is still at a very early stage," said Spies.
A total of 33 suspects have already appeared in court on charges of public violence, housebreaking and possession of stolen property, according to Spies.
"Seven suspects were positively linked to the public violence and housebreaking incidents. They were remanded in custody and will appear in court on 2 August for a formal bail application," he said, adding that 19 suspects facing charges of public violence were released on R1 000 bail each and the matter against them would be heard on 24 July.
"Seven suspects arrested at KwaNokuthula are facing charges of housebreaking and theft. They were released on warning to appear in court on 14 August," said Spies.
Out of the 81 suspects who were initially arrested, some were released due to insufficient evidence at this stage, he said, but added, "They could be rearrested and brought before court as the investigation into the matters unfold."
He assured residents that public order police are still in the area monitoring the situation and that they would remain there until the situation stabilised.
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