Deputy Police Minister Bongani Mkongi called for calm in Caledon on Friday following the deaths of two people during a protest in the Western Cape town.
“Today we visited Caledon following the death of two protesters and interacted with the community and its leaders,” he said on his Facebook page on Friday.
“It is alleged that the protesters were shot by police,” he said. “During our interaction we reiterated our message conveyed earlier by our National CommisSioner [Khehla Sitole] that it is our humble appeal that the community of Caledon remain calm and allow the investigation to take its course.”
On Thursday, two men were killed during a march, over service delivery and housing, from Uitsig and Riemvasmaak to the Theewaterskloof municipal offices.
National police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo said on Thursday that, according to preliminary reports, police were dispersing the crowd when the two were killed.
Uitsig and Riemvasmaak are on the outskirts of Caledon and near a prison.
All firearms which were at the scene, including those of police officers and a private security company, were seized afterwards as the Independent Police Investigative Directorate probes what happened.
Cluster commander Brigadier Donovan Heilbron said that an interdict had also been granted to prevent the occupation of a plot of land in Riemvasmaak, where people had started marking out sites for themselves with sticks.
Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa announced that the R316 and the R320 from Caledon to Bredasdorp, and the road between Caledon and Hemel-en-Aarde outside Hermanus, had been closed by protesters.
“Currently it is very tense,” Africa said on Friday afternoon.
He urged people to be safe and to use alternate routes.
By Friday evening the R316 and R320 were reopened for traffic. All roads in Caledon were also open.
Mkongi also visited the families of the two men who were killed, as well as community leaders and Deputy Mayor Isaac Mbulelo Sileku.
The names of the deceased were not immediately available, but it is understood that one of them was 17 years old.
Community leader Jacques Brinkhuys, from the Pentecostal Church, told News24 that they had had protests before, but that they had always been peaceful.
“We had not seen something like this before,” he said. “To lose the lives of two people is very sad for us, the broader community,” sighed Brinkhuys.
‘They are just burning tyres’
He said that between 800 and 1 000 people were pegging out sites on the piece of vacant land which borders that of a local farmer. He explained that rentals in Caledon range from around R500 a month for one room on the outskirts, to around R3 000 for a one-bedroomed flat in the CBD, and that people could not afford it.
He said the Public Order Police were present in Caledon in the Uitsig and Riemvasmaak area on Friday, but that it was much calmer than Thursday.
“Nobody was throwing stones or anything,” he said. “They are just burning tyres.”
To his knowledge two women had also been seriously injured and were in hospital. One was apparently shot in an eye, and another in a leg.
On Thursday, the mayor said in a Facebook announcement that protests, as a national phenomenon, were becoming more violent, and fears that there would be deaths “became a reality” on Thursday.
He was, however, concerned that permission was granted for a march next Tuesday, not Thursday [yesterday].
Western Cape Safety MEC Alan Winde agreed with this view and posted an application for a march document on Twitter to back up his claim.