Police fired rubber bullets as Eersterust residents in Pretoria on Wednesday morning protested a lack of service delivery, lack of housing for the poor and constant electricity outages.
At 3am, the residents had already begun their protest, closing all roads leading into the community, burning tyres and preventing vehicles from leaving the area.
Among those barred from leaving the community were schoolchildren writing midyear exams. Some people’s cars got damaged amid the chaos.
A 12-year-old boy had to run for dear life to get out of the township, with a group of people chasing after him to come back. He goes to school outside Eersterust, and had an exam to write this morning.
His mother, Lee-Ann Benjamin, said she was livid after she failed at three exits to get her son out. “I ended up hitting the one man while my son was running towards an exit, towards where my husband was waiting for him,” an angry Benjamin said.
The residents claim they have been forgotten by the government and the City of Tshwane, and it does not matter whether they vote for the DA or the ANC.
They also accused the City of Tshwane of ignoring them, hence the three to four power failures a week.
The schools in Eersterust were allowed to operate, but some of the children attending school outside had difficulty getting out.
Pastor Carol Mitchell said she tried to warn as many people as possible because one must consider the safety of the people. “I also contacted three schools to warn them because they were not informed beforehand about the strike,” she said.
Mitchell said while she fully supported the protest action – as residents should not have to suffer under these power outages – she was concerned about the sick people who needed urgent care outside the township and the children who must get to examination venues, and therefore did not condone how the protest unfolded.
Pastor William Japhta said the strike was long overdue. “Eersterust is far behind in terms of infrastructures and economic development. There is unemployment, and Eersterust has been treated like a stepchild thus far, whether we vote for the ANC or DA,” Japhta said.
However, he also condemned any violence or prevention of people from getting to work or school, and called for peaceful demonstrations.