Delft residents refuse, resist eviction

By Asa Sokopo, Murray Williams and Andisiwe Makinana

Violence broke out in Delft Symphony section of N2 Gateway on Tuesday after residents who had been evicted from their homes following a court order tried to pull their belongings from removal trucks.

Police opened fire with rubber bullets and stun grenades after hours of tension erupted into chaos.

Journalists, photographers and residents ran for cover when police opened fire.

It is unclear how many were injured but on the scene the Cape Argus saw eight people with injuries, while residents claimed that some children had been hurt and were rushed to hospital.

The tension built up after a large eviction team, backed by security guards and a heavy police presence, moved into the area at 4.30am and began evicting about 1 600 illegal occupants from N2 Gateway houses after their application for leave to appeal against their eviction was refused in the Cape High Court on Monday.

Both tears and verbal abuse flowed as some residents complained that little children had been herded from their homes in the cold before dawn, and said they had no food or water on the street.

Some residents stood their ground - hurling abuse at police and security guards - and furniture had to be removed from the houses by security staff.

A large crowd gathered at a major intersection at the suburb, leaving police trying to control the situation between the houses and piles of rubbish in the streets.

Shortly before 11am, trucks loaded with furniture tried to make their way out of the area, but were blocked by groups of residents sitting in the road.

When some tried to wrestle their possessions from the trucks chaos erupted and riot police opened fire.

An angry and injured resident Berenice September said she would continue to fight till the end.

"I am still not going anywhere, they can shoot all they want!" she shouted.

Two men, visibly injured and one barely able to breathe, were locked in the back of a police van while residents pleaded with the police saying the two men required medical attention.

An altercation ensued between a Cape Argus reporter and the police when she inquired as to why the men were locked up and if they were going to receive medical attention.

Placard-carrying children had initially formed a barrier between the crowd and police before the violence erupted.

Pastor Shireen Horne of the Tehillah Community Collaborative in Elsies River said they would be pressing charges against the police.

She said the children were being placed under unnecessary stress by being evicted from their homes and what was happening in Delft was contradictory to the new child law.

An evicted resident, Anthea Williams claimed that during the process of moving her possessions, police had taken everything she had, including her baby's nappies and food. The goods were apparently taken to a depot at Blackheath.

"They took everything I have saying that they don't want my things lying in the street. I don't know what I'm going to do," she said.

Throughout the morning, numerous residents cried that the government did not care for them and screamed racial slurs about the people they said were were going to move into "our homes".

At midday on Tuesday, many families had left the area, with their possessions piled high on to cars and bakkies. But hundreds of families refused to leave the area, promising to return to the houses on Tuesday night.

Police spokesperson Andre Traut said the court order instructed the residents to leave the entire area which remained an incomplete construction site and it was thus illegal for them to remain on the street on Tuesday.

As each house was cleared by the eviction team this morning, makeshift wooden boards that were used as panes were knocked out of the windows and a guard was posted outside each empty house to prevent people from returning.

"I don't know where we are going," said William West. "We used to live in a backyard, but they don't want us there anymore."

"What rights do the brown people have?" asked neighbour Elwin Smit.

The Anti-Eviction Campaign's Mncedisi Twalo said the occupants were due to meet to discuss a way forward.

"Obviously we are so upset. We had hoped that the judge would consider the history of the housing backlog," he said.

The evictions took place over several square kilometres of the N2 Gateway project in Delft.

Hundreds of backyard dwellers from Delft, Belhar, Elsies River and Bonteheuwel, who said they had been waiting for promised housing for several years, moved into the unfinished houses in the N2 Gateway project two months ago.

Most of the houses have been reserved for Joe Slovo residents who had lost their informal homes in a Langa fire two years ago.

Instructing attorney for the dwellers William Booth said this morning that they were considering an appeal against the High Court decision in the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein, but that he was still waiting for specific instruction from his clients.

"There has been talk of taking the appeal route," he said.

Thubelisha's N2 Gateway general manager Prince Xhanti Sigcawu said on Tuesday that the company was waiting for the houses to be emptied and would send contractors to start repairs as early as Wedneday before the right beneficiaries (of the houses) can move in.

He estimated that it would cost them R20-million to repair the houses.

Sigcawu said Thubelisha was not going to penalise the illegal occupants as long as they moved out so the legal occupants could move in. - Additional reporting by Andisiwe Makinana, Dianne Hawker and Leila Samodien


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