Situation in Smash Block “under control”

SMASH BLOCK – The situation in Smash Block is under control and being monitored by the police after four houses of ANC office bearers for Smash Block were burnt on Sunday 24 April.

Although the police presence has been reduced, police units from across the province are still monitoring the situation and on standby.

According to Northam Police Station Commander, Lt-Colonel Schmidt, the situation is mobile and reinforcements are on standby.

After the houses were burnt on Sunday 106 people were arrested on counts of public violence, intimidation, arson, stone throwing and attempted murder. Of these, 83, almost all of them unemployed individuals, were released on bail of R500 each during the past week.

The remaining 23 suspects, amongst whom Steven Leromo, Independent ward councillor for Smash Block, will appear in court on formal bail applications on Monday 10 May. It is expected that the police will oppose bail.

During the past week activities have been slowly returning to normal although some of the arson victims have not yet returned to Smash Block. Although the police has indicated that “political unrest” and political differences form the basis for the unrest, rumours are doing the rounds that the situation is more complicated and that personal vendettas might also play a role.

Some inhabitants have accused the police of using excessive force in their attempts to secure peace and stability in the area.

Apparently the situation started turning violent on Saturday 23 April when crowds started gathering around the house of Beauty Magoga, ANC secretary for Smash Block, as well as other ANC office bearers.

The crowd of about 50 people started shouting and throwing stones shouting accusations that the ANC was responsible for the lack of services in Smash Block. The Mogoga family, along with other ANC committee members were taken to a place of safety by the police. They were returned to Smash Block during the early hours of Sunday morning. At about 10:30 on Sunday morning the houses of  ANC chairman for Smash block, Radikwega Seloma, deputy chairman, Matsidiso Modisadibe, secretary Beauty Magoga and additional member, Modibedi, were burnt down by angry crowds.

Mogoga’s husband was hit by a rock across the forehead and hospitalized.

Smash Block is one of the largest informal settlements in the country, with basic services being scant due to land disputes surrounding the property on which Smash Block is situated. Residents, which number almost 30 000, form a very heterogeneous society.