Cape Town - Residents of Isiqalo in Mitchells Plain say they had a flashback to apartheid when police raided the informal settlement on Thursday night, following violent protests in recent days.
They said shortly before midnight, police kicked in doors, broke windows, beat men in front of their children and dragged some away in handcuffs, leaving their families guessing about their whereabouts this morning.
It has been a week of upheaval for the settlement after protests about voter registration erupted. On two occasions, protesters burnt tyres, forcing the closure of Vanguard Drive. There were running battles with riot police.
Residents see last night’s clampdown by police as retaliation for these protests.
“Many of the police were horribly racist,” said Nosibabalwe Dyantyi, whose door was kicked in.
“They were mocking us and shouting: ‘Come on you k*****, open up!’ They didn’t even give us a chance and just kicked in the door.”
Dyantyi said her husband Thobile Dyantyi was beaten up in front of their kids, handcuffed and dragged away.
Two other men, Vuyo Booi and Nontembiso Ngcwangu, were beaten and taken away under similar circumstances, family members said.
Police had asked for the men by name, leading to suspicion someone in the community had provided the names of the protest ringleaders.
“If we find that person, there is no telling what will happen to them,” a resident, who asked not to be named, said. “But it is also shameful that police exploit the poverty here and pay people to betray their neighbours.”
Residents showed the Cape Argus dozens of shacks where police had apparently broken windows and kicked doors off their hinges.
Lungiswa Bashe said she was dressed in nothing but a pair of panties when police kicked down her door and pushed her to the ground.
Ngcwangu’s wife, Mandisi, said her shack was “turned upside-down”.
“The police said they were looking for a loudspeaker but they could not find one,” she said, holding her 20-month-old son, who had witnessed his father being beaten.
“As (the police) left, they said to me: ‘Take a good look at your husband because we are going to kill him.’ Up until now, I do not know where they have taken him.”
This week, Siqalo residents protested against attempts by the IEC to register voters in the area. There is a consensus among many in the community they do not want to vote. Come election day, they threaten to petrol-bomb voting stations.
They complain political parties and the government ignore their grievances – lack of housing, water, electricity, sanitation and waste removal – and only give them attention when elections are approaching.
Police confirmed they arrested four people for public violence on Thursday night.
“Allegations of brutality in this regard are best addressed by an official compliant to police management or Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
“This office will not be responding to unsubstantiated allegations,” said police spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut.