Zackie Achmat caught in crossfire as violence erupts in Philippi on eve of crucial election

Protesters blocked busy roads in Philippi, Cape Town, with burning tyres.  (Sandiso Phaliso/GroundUp)

Protesters blocked busy roads in Philippi, Cape Town, with burning tyres. (Sandiso Phaliso/GroundUp)

  • Protesters burned tires, blocked roads, stoned cars and set fire to a bus in Philippi, Western Cape.
  • The car of independent candidate Zackie Achmat was shot at.
  • Find everything you need to know about the 2024 general election in the News24 Elections Centre.

Black smoke hung over Philippi on Tuesday afternoon as youths, many wearing balaclavas or masks, blocked main roads with burning tires and stones on the eve of the election.

Traffic lights were set on fire on the corner of Sheffield Road and New Eisleben Road. Motorists had to look for alternative routes.

On nearby Vietnam Road, passing cars were stoned. The atmosphere was tense and small spaza shops, meat and vegetable sellers closed their doors for fear of looting, according to GroundUp.

Earlier in the day, a Golden Arrow bus was set on fire near the bus station.

It was unclear what the protests were about.

Last November, angry residents disrupted the registration process for the elections, driving away South African Electoral Commission staff. But this year community leaders and police assured residents there would be no disruption.

On Tuesday night, GroundUp spoke to two community leaders on condition of anonymity because they feared being intimidated.

“What is happening here, the destruction of property and roads, the threats to innocent people and motorists going about their lives, it is all political, an attempt to sabotage the elections tomorrow (Wednesday). These are the same people as tomorrow “They need to be fixed, but they themselves are destroying them,” said one community leader.

READ | Ramaphosa deploys 2,828 SANDF members to ensure peaceful elections

On Tuesday afternoon, there was an attempted hijacking of the car in which the independent candidate Zackie Achmat was. He and members of his team were driving through Philippi to campaign for Wednesday’s election when at least two men tried to hijack his car.

One of the men shot at the car. He hit the car, but Achmat and his team escaped. Nobody was hurt. Achmat said he did not believe it was a personal target.

Another community leader said acts of violence should be condemned. “The people who do all this are known, and if we were all sincere and really wanted peace in our community, we would hold them accountable. But we are all afraid of being identified.”

Two police vehicles arrived about 45 minutes after the group of people began burning tires. The protesters dispersed by throwing stones at the officers.