18 people charged over Hermanus protest to apply for bail

A group of 18 people will apply for bail in the Hermanus Magistrate's Court on Monday after being charged for crimes related to a protest earlier this month.

Zwelihle Renewal Committee member Theron Mqhu faces charges of robbery with aggravating circumstances, attempted murder and public violence. The others face charges relating to public violence.

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Mqhu's charges are related to the brutal attack of a law enforcement official who was also robbed of his firearm. Attackers struck the officer on the head with an axe while he was in his police vehicle. The officer had to be hospitalised in critical condition at the time.

His lawyer previously told the court that Mqhu had actually been the one to ensure the firearm was returned safely, after being taken by unknown protesters.

Protests flared up in March over land for backyarders after a group started pegging out plots on municipal land. There were also complaints about alleged irregularities in government housing processes and the unequal expenditure of services between black and white residents.

Heavy police presence

The protests subsided after some residents organised themselves into the Zwelihle Renewal Committee, to negotiate with the municipality and the Department of Human Settlements on behalf of the community for land for backyarders and others who have been battling to find affordable places to live.

Unrest calmed as the negotiations revealed that a private plot, Schulphoek, would be bought back from developers, and other municipal stands would be made available.

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News24 previously reported that it was understood protests flared up two weeks ago when a fence on the Sandbaai side of Zwelihle was removed, allegedly by some Zwelihle residents who felt they were blocked off from the rest of Hermanus.

Police Minister Bheki Cele recently returned to the area for a second time to respond to several grievances aired by a handful of residents, who alleged that police barged into their homes and assaulted them.

Cele asked for the Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) to investigate allegations of police brutality in Zwelihle, and also said that the heavy police presence in the area would be withdrawn.