Cape Town - “We’re not racist – but it’s not fair.”
This was the cry by a Macassar teacher on Monday, echoing a protest which turned violent. Police fired rubber bullets, hitting several people, including a grandmother who was struck in the face.
The anger was fuelled by an announcement by mayor Patricia de Lille, earlier this month, that shack dwellers evicted from SA Roads Agency land in Lwandle on June 2 and 3 would be added to the city’s housing plans, within nine months – probably at Macassar.
On Monday, a small group of Macassar residents tried to meet John Heuvel, the DA councillor for the Ward 109, which includes Macassar and stretches north towards Croydon and Faure, to discuss the proposed settlement.
But Heuvel was in caucus meetings at the Civic Centre and people’s anger mounted.
Confrontations later raged with police on Monday afternoon, including a petrol bomb of sorts being hurled through the window of a building which reportedly stores administration files – including housing lists, or so many residents believed.
“I was born here. And there are people I grew up with who are still waiting for houses. Some have even had to raise children in these backyards,” said Roekyda Kuys. “It is not racist to say that this is just not fair.”
A friend, who declined to give her name, said: “What happened here today was not right, but sometimes the end justifies the means. These are normal, hardworking people. It’s actually nice to see people standing up for themselves.”
“Why must they come here?” asked Dorothy Daniels. “There are people here who have been on waiting lists for houses for more than 20 years.”
In the violence on Monday, and the police’s attempts to quell the riots, several people were hit by rubber bullets.
“I went to fetch my grandson when I was hit, here, next to my eye,” said grandmother Elizabeth Maarman.
Two men, Ashwin Plaatjies and Denzil Summers, were hit too, while Magdalena Williams complained of a tight chest after a tear gas canister rolled into her tuck shop.
“The whole place filled with smoke, and we rushed to close the windows while someone kicked the canister outside. But how can they throw a canister into a house?” she asked.
A heavy police and metro police presence continued until late on Monday.