South Africa: Philippi Residents Roll Up Sleeves to Clean Looted Library and Community Hall

“The people behind these attacks need to realise that they are depriving their own communities of vital services” says clean-up volunteer

Days after destructive protests and looting amid the taxi strike crippled Philippi and surrounding communities, residents got together to clean up their library and community hall.

At the height of the taxi shutdown last week, public facilities such as Philippi’s Browns Farm library, ward councillor’s office, and community hall were all badly ransacked and vandalised. Criminals stole and severely damaged books, computers, ceilings and other electrical infrastructure in the buildings. Doors and windows were also smashed.

The shutdown and subsequent incidents of looting and vehicle stoning in the area hit poor households hard. Many shops in Philippi were either out of stock or hiked prices of essential items like bread, milk, eggs, and paraffin. On Friday a group of women marched through the streets, calling for calm in the township.

On Saturday, residents began clearing books, papers and shards of glass strewn across the facilities’ floors. Volunteers brought gloves, spades, rakes and wheelbarrows to carry the rubbish away. They said they wanted to show the people who ransacked the facilities that the community loved those buildings.

Once the clean-up and minor repairs were completed, the volunteers planned to meet with other Browns Farm residents to safeguard the facility and to help police identify the perpetrators.

Resident and volunteer, Mpumzi Kolobe, said he was grateful people came to help. “The people want to see the area restored after the devastating vandalism. The people behind these attacks need to realise they are depriving their own communities of vital services. It’s also true that in many instances the criminals are known to communities,” said Kolobe.

Ward councillor Melikhaya Gadeni said the extensive damage at the Browns Farm library, swimming pool, community hall, and his office could cost millions of rands to fix. “The impact on the community will be huge. As we approach the summer season, the children will be severely affected as the closure of the swimming pool may go beyond the summer,” said Gadeni.

He said the closure of his office “will force people to certify their documents at Nyanga Police Station, at a cost for some. I will have difficulty in dealing with service requests for our communities”.

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