Port Elizabeth – Talks between angry residents, principals, the Eastern Cape Education Department and other interested parties were expected to continue on Tuesday to avoid a repeat of violent protests that rocked Port Elizabeth’s northern areas.
On Monday areas – including Gelvandale and Bethelsdorp – were ablaze over the closure of 33 schools due to a lack of teachers.
Protesters blocked roads with burning barricades, forcing the deployment of Public Order Policing and Tactical Response Teams to control the situation.
Photos and videos uploaded onto social media showed some protesters making petrol bombs. Others displayed spent bullet casings, claiming live ammunition had been fired into the crowd by police.
But police spokeswoman Brigadier Miranda Mills said: “We did not fire any live ammunition. Shots (of live ammunition) were fired at the police.”
Mills said that police had to use stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons to disperse protesters.
By late on Monday, a tense calm returned to the area.
“It has calmed down a lot. The situation is slowly returning to normal. There are negotiations taking place at the moment,” she said on Monday evening.
Parents, pupils and even taxi drivers reportedly took part in the protests that erupted on Monday morning, with protesters also complaining about a lack of infrastructure at the schools, apart from the closures and a lack of teachers.
Police said: “Criminal elements seized the opportunity” to loot a shop in West End but law enforcement officers were able to disperse the crowd and prevent any looting from taking place.
“Six police vehicles and one vehicle belonging to a resident were damaged.
“Three people have come forward to report injuries, but were not hospitalised.
“Two suspects, aged 19 and 21, have been arrested and charged for public violence. The suspects will appear in the Gelvandale Magistrate’s Court today,” Eastern Cape police said. “Police visibility will be maintained although the situation is currently calm.”
Talks were expected to continue on Tuesday as the education department in the province sought to address some of the issues.
Residents in the area were outraged that schools were closed due to a lack of teachers and resources.
Loyiso Pulumani, spokesman for the Eastern Cape Education MEC, Mandla Makupula, said the MEC was planning to meet all principals from the schools in the Port Elizabeth’s northern areas. The meeting was scheduled to take place on Tuesday morning.
Pulumani said Makupula was concerned with the closure of other schools due to the protest. Pulumani said the department would advertise all vacant posts in the affected schools.
“We hope all affected stakeholders will heed our efforts of making sure that the doors of learning return to normality in the area.”
DA leader in the Eastern Cape, Athol Trollip, said: “The fact is that schools in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth have been notoriously neglected, andparents cannot tolerate this affront to their children any longer.
“These schools are dangerous places, where gangsters and criminals prey on children because school safety is utterly ignored.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay metro police continue to be nothing more than a pipe-dream, while its so-called commanding officer draws a huge salarywithout a single officer on the beat.”
Trollip also said that the party “condemns acts of violence by police and criminal elements who exploited” the protests.