Jurriën timber Law-enforcement agencies were out in force on Thursday to monitor service delivery protests that saw Swellendam shops looted and its municipal offices gutted by fire the previous day. 

The dispute is about resistance to an amended council policy requiring indigent households to apply for subsidised services to ensure the system is not abused and plan adequately for future provision of services.

Violence erupted on Wednesday when residents were prevented from marching to the municipality to hand over a memorandum to the mayor regarding the high cost of electricity and provision of water to informal settlements.

“Authorities are monitoring and managing the protest action that flared up over the last two days,” the municipality said on Thursday. 

“Local law-enforcement agencies have been deployed to closely monitor the situation and take prompt action against any individuals found engaging in unlawful activities or violating the rights of others. The authorities assert that those responsible for criminal acts will be held accountable and face appropriate legal consequences.”

Driver’s licence tests were postponed due to the protests, along with refuse collection in Railton and Barrydale. Railton Clinic was also closed on Thursday.

Among businesses looted during the chaos on Wednesday was Wajid Aziz’s shop, which was stripped of cellphones, speakers, accessories and amplifiers. He told broadcaster eNCA that when he and others tried to protect the store, they were confronted by knife-wielding thugs: “We had to protect the shop … when the people saw us, they came running … They had a big knife in their hands. They tried to kill us, so we ran away to our house.”

Swellendam mayor Francois du Rand told CapeTalk on Thursday that criminal elements had taken advantage of the chaos. Some spaza shops were looted overnight.

Western Cape local government, environmental affairs and development planning MEC Anton Bredell said at least 106 people, including 19 minors, were arrested. 

“At this stage the priority is to protect data infrastructure for administrative and financial services to continue. These are critical for service delivery to residents,” Bredell said.

“The protests are related to the requirement for households in Majoks, Swellendam, to register for indigent support. It is essential that indigent support goes to the people who need it and that municipalities update their registers to support the most vulnerable.” 

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