Vrygrond violence drives out volunteers
Jenna Etheridge, News24
Cape Town – Violence and vandalism directed at a community centre in Vrygrond, Cape Town, has forced volunteers to stay away out of fear for their safety.
Vicky Kumm, chairperson of the Vrygrond Community Development Trust and director non-profit organisation, True North, said local residents threw a petrol bomb into their office at the centre on Wednesday.
It was extinguished but they lost their training material which had dealt a severe blow to their efforts to offer early childhood development support to about 133 teachers and principals.
Kumm said the centre housed a number of other organisations that served residents.
On Thursday, she said, people broke down gates to the centre, burned tyres in the courtyard and vandalised the kitchen of an organisation.
Western Cape police confirmed the centre's windows were broken on Thursday night.
Officers also discovered burning tyres inside the courtyard which spread towards the hall itself, said police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk.
These and a spate of other incidents in the area are said to be a response to the impounding of minibus taxis.
A 25-year-old man was arrested for arson. He would appear in Muizenberg Magistrate’s Court soon.
Kumm said around 1 400 children up to the age of five had benefited from their work. All that was now at risk.
"We provide training for teachers, leadership training and food for the preschools. Obviously now it can't happen," she said.
"The hardest thing is we have built strong friendships and relationships with teachers and principals and not being there or supporting them is awful."
Kumm, who has been involved with residents for nine years, had not been able to return to the centre to assess the damage.
She was hoping to go back on Monday.
"Everyone is praying and encouraging one another. At least that is kind of a silver lining. There is a real community and some of the leaders have stepped out and are speaking out against the violence," she said.
The trust was formed in 1997 to facilitate a number of projects, including a school and library.
One of the members who helped set up the trust, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was a tragedy that people were venting their feelings on facilities that were built to serve the community.
Authorities remained in the area on Friday.
The solid waste department was helping to remove tyres and debris from the road.