Port Elizabeth – Those responsible for organising Monday morning’s protest in the Northern Areas of Port Elizabeth despite warnings not to, will be held accountable, MP Cedric Frolick warned.
Chaos erupted as early morning protests over lack of teachers at schools in the area turned into uncontrolled violent clashes with police.
Thick black smoke hung over the Northern Areas this morning as protesters barricaded main roads out of the area with burning tyres since the early hours, forcing vehicles to turn around.
The initial protest action stemmed from a call by the Northern Areas Education Forum (NAEF), who organised parents to shut down 33 schools in the area last week over unhappiness with the way the provincial education department was dealing with teacher vacancies.
The NAEF’s grievances included teacher shortages, budget allocations allegedly being misused and a lack of non-teaching staff at schools.
However, what was meant to be a peaceful protest over under resourced schools quickly escalated after vehicles were stoned while driving past protestors on Monday morning, resulting in police moving in to disperse the crowds.
The strong police presence was met with resistance and a number of police vehicles were also bombarded with rocks, resulting in the use of water cannons, tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds.
At 10:00 a tense stand-off between police and protesters resulted in many parts of the Northern Areas being declared a no-go zone.
Police vehicles were forced to withdraw from some areas after being petrol bombed, while others had burning tyres rolled down at them by pockets of protestors.
Frolick, who had been travelling with police since 05:00 and was in one of the police vans that was stoned, said the NAEF had lost control of the situation but would be held accountable.
“We had meetings with them but they did not want to listen to us and said they were going to go ahead with the protest.”
“They mobilised these individuals and now they are nowhere to be found, but they must be held accountable,” he said.
MP Christian Martin, who was also present at the scene, echoed Frolick’s sentiments.
“They are now trying to place the blame on the police but they mobilised the masses and they lost control.
“Now when anyone tries to get hold of them they are nowhere to be found,” he said.
Police spokesperson Captain Johan Rheeder said police were monitoring the situation and advised members of the public to avoid the Northern Areas where possible.
Rheeder said sections of Standford Road and Highfield roads have been cordoned off by police and traffic officials.
“The protests have been taken over by elements within the community that are currently operating in small groups,” he said.
He said no arrests had, as yet, been made.
Derrick Spies, News24 Correspondent
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