Chaos erupted in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas on Thursday, which saw protesters and police clash amid violent protests, leaving one person dead and at least two more injured.
It is understood that criminal elements became apparent as protesters used live ammunition to shoot at police.
Stoning vehicles and wreaking havoc, protesters gathered at ‘die gaat’ which is in the centre of Helenvale, notoriously known for its drug posts and gang activities.
For all of Thursday, police blocked off Standford Road at the Gail Road intersection. Heavily armed police were out in full force and a police nyala went to and fro past ‘die gaat’. One metro police vehicle was spotted in the area at the time.
A source, who did not want to be named out of fear, told ANA that amid the violent protest he transported a school learner home after she became ill at school earlier on Thursday morning.
He said on his way back into Helenvale he came across young men who stopped to ask for a lift to the nearby hospital.
“Two of them got into the car and I saw blood. A young man was shot on the side of the neck and I just thought a life is at stake here. I told them to put him in the car and I drove. I was just being a good Samaritan and I needed to get him as quickly as possible to hospital,” he said.
The source said that the safety of learners schooling in the Helenvale area could not be guaranteed while parents were becoming anxious.
In between the chaos, learners from Gelvandale High School were seen at break time gathering near the school fence to watch protesters making their way closer to a police entourage.
Residents in the northern areas have been protesting all week over unemployment and a lack of opportunities for local SMME’s.
However, information from community members, was that criminal elements of gangsterism were fuelling the protests — whereas gang leaders and a political activist aimed to take police officers out — by means of bullets, guns and petrol bombs.
In a media statement, police spokesperson, Captain Sandra Janse Van Rensburg, said that police had arrested four suspects, aged between 15 and 17, on charges of public violence.
Janse Van Rensburg also confirmed a 23-year-old man was shot in the neck and later died as a result of his injuries.
“A number of private vehicles and four police vehicles were damaged. Several members sustained light injuries but were not hospitalised. Police fired rubber bullets and whilst concentrating on curbing the violence, members of gangs in the area took advantage of the situation and fired shots at the police members deployed,” Janse Van Rensburg said.
“Two more people were injured and it is alleged that a 27-year-old male was shot in his hand and a 24-year-old male was injured by a rubber bullet. A murder and two cases of attempted murder will be investigated by Ipid [Independent Police Investigative Directorate]. Cases of malicious damage to property have also been opened,” said Janse Van Rensburg.
Earlier this week, a meeting was held with residents and Executive Mayor Athol Trollip at the Helenvale Resource Centre
The mayor’s spokesperson, Sbongile Dimbaza said that a list of 40 grievances, related to service delivery, were submitted by residents and Trollip took an undertaking to respond by Friday.
Dimbaza said that it was strange for residents to protest while waiting for feedback from the mayor.
“It would appear that the protests are motivated by criminal or political elements,” he said.
– African News Agency (ANA)