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Cars set alight as Hangberg erupts

Cape Town - Cars were set alight and buildings damaged early on Tuesday morning as the Hangberg housing saga erupted again. The Panorama Hill complex, an upmarket block of flats at the entrance to Hangberg, became the target of angry residents who burned and damaged six cars after a community member was arrested.

On Tuesday morning, rocks and tree branches littered the road at the entrance to Hangberg as a police Nyala parked close by.

Hangberg residents set cars alight at Panorama Hill complex after the law enforcement arrested a man, who had built a dwelling illegally in a firebreak. File picture: Cindy Waxa. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

Tenants from the complex inspected the damage to their vehicles as more police arrived.

A block away, the Hout Bay harbour market was in disarray as sculptures, paintings, crockery and an ATM were damaged and silverware allegedly stolen.

Yellow police tape cordoned off the area.

A teacher who lives in Panorama Hill building assessed the damage to her car on Tuesday morning.

Her white Corsa was burnt on the right side and its windows were shattered.

“There was a lot of screaming and shouting at around 3am.

“A flare was thrown on the car parked next to mine.”

She added that residents were afraid.

“It is heartbreaking, especially when children are involved too.

“Children and adults were throwing stones and rocks.”

Another resident said she heard what sounded like gunshots after midnight and couldn’t sleep.

“I heard stones and went to look through the window when I saw people climbing over the wall.

“I saw them light the cars and then I started to pray.

“Apparently, they were promised this land and it is the second or third time they have done this.”

The violence was related to the arrest of Tony Jonker early on Tuesday morning for “breaching a high court order”.

The land at the centre of the dispute is above Hangberg, on a firebreak between the community and SANParks land.

A 2011 court order came after extensive mediation between the land owners and the community, facilitated by the Peace & Mediation Forum, whose agreement was made an order of the court. The order prevents any further construction on the land, for health and safety reasons - and it was this which the court acted on on Tuesday.

Jonkers’s mother Fadwah Vardien said her 8-year-old grandson was traumatised by the arrest.

“I am very angry. It is the third time police came to my son’s place, beating him and arresting him. How many times must my grandson see his father treated like this?

Her son’s structure was one of the first illegally built in 2010 and one of the first to be destroyed.

“When the court order was granted (to evict illegal structures) he had already rebuilt. So his structure was already there.

“The court order came afterwards.”

Roscoe Jacobs from the Hout Bay Civic Association said arrests of community members were a “huge miscarriage of justice”.

“Evictions are still taking place. People have become very frustrated. The arrest on Tuesday morning is the fourth or fifth since last year. The court order stems from 2012 for people who built their structures illegally in 2009 and 2010.”

“How long will this court order from 2012 be valid for?

“There is a lot of uncertainty in the community and the only reason they continue to build is because the city and provincial government did not address their issues properly.”

The community would challenge the court order. “We will continue until the mayor and premier properly address this. The mediation process has failed and had taken place behind closed doors in the past.

“We need to come together and work towards the best interest of the community.”

Police spokesman Andre Traut said on Tuesday morning: “At this stage, the situation has calmed down and no one has been arrested on charges of public violence as yet.”

Alderman JP Smith, Mayco member for Safety and Security, said: “Members of the community of Hangberg invaded a fire break. They were in breach of a court order and it was unsafe for them to reside there.

“As part of the city’s commitment to building a safe city for our residents, we were obliged to serve them with a notice. Upon doing so, members of our city staff were repeatedly attacked.

“For more than a year and a half the city tried to engage with these individuals constructively.

“They refused to comply and on Tuesday morning the SAPS moved in in order to arrest those who were in breach of said court order.”

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