Protesters threw stones and petrol bombs at firefighters in the Khayelitsha area of southern Cape Town on Wednesday, July 22, as violent unrest over illegal land occupations continued. None of the firefighters were injured in the incident on Mew Way, but the fire engine was damaged and the team were prevented from reaching a structure fire in the area. The incident follows a number of attacks on emergency service and utilities personnel in the Western Cape since unrest over land occupations escalated last week. Firefighters were also attacked with stones and petrol bombs in the Mfuleni area on Tuesday, July 21, despite the presence of a police escort. Emergency medical personnel, community service volunteers, council workers, and Eskom engineers have also come under attack by crowds in the district in recent days. Eskom has since suspended maintenance operations in parts of Khayelitsha, Bardale, Bloekombos, Wallacedene, Kraaifontein, and Wesbank due to the risk of unrest and attacks on staff. At least two schools in the Joe Slovo Park township in the Milnerton area were also targeted in arson attacks on Wednesday and Monday, July 20.
Further unrest is likely in various areas of the Cape Flats in the near term.
As in other major urban centres in South Africa, Cape Town experiences relatively frequent protests over a wide range of political, social, economic, environmental, and labour issues. Outside of the city centre, protests over labour and service delivery issues occur frequently in former townships to the east of the city and some isolated coastal suburbs such as Hout Bay. These protests typically involve roadblocks, restricting travel in the immediate vicinity, and are often aggressive, with demonstrators attacking passing vehicles, particularly buses, and police.
The recent unrest in the city has revolved around attempts by impoverished communities to occupy vacant and communal land in several areas, particularly Khayelitsha and Mfuleni, in order to build informal settlements. Local authorities have appealed for calm but have been largely powerless to prevent the land occupations.
Those in Cape Town are advised to monitor developments, avoid all protests as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by local authorities.
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