Cape Town - The violent removal of people and structures from Sanral-owned land in Cape Town resembled removals during apartheid, an affected resident said in Lwandle on Tuesday.
Xoliswa Masakala and her husband Albert had been living on the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) land since December 2013, when they were removed last month.
They described how the events had traumatised them and their three boys.
“Way back in 1991, I was in Grade one. There was also an unrest, something that was affiliated with the apartheid system, and it reminds me of what took place,” Xoliswa told an inquiry investigating the removals.
“(In 1991,) I was hit with a spray canister and I fell down and passed out. I was taken home by people. So this actually reminds me about that event in 1991 when I was still a child.”
The family, former backyarders, were first removed from the land in February but erected another shack on the land because they had nowhere else to go.
Xoliswa said they woke up on June 2 to the sight of police blockading the area with barbed wire. Their local councillor tried convincing the police officers to have a calm discussion in an office.
“They didn't want to listen to what the councillor had to say. They started shooting at the people and people started to disperse and they started to pepper spray the people,” she said.
“The whole situation was out of control. It was chaotic and people had to run away.”
Albert confronted the police as he was leaving for work.
He said they grabbed him from behind and choked him before forcing him onto his stomach on the ground. A policeman used his knee to keep Albert's face down.
“They opened my eyes and pepper-sprayed my eyes. They opened my nose and put pepper-spray into my nose deliberately,” he said.
He was put into the police van with others and taken to Strand police station, and then Pollsmoor prison.
When his wife asked why they were attacking an innocent man, the police officers grabbed her. She said they beat her and tore her clothes off, leaving her naked.
Residents threw stones as a result of the police treatment.
The next day, on June 3, she said the police returned to demolish the remaining structures and it became “heated and out of control”.
She said residents did not retaliate this time as they were surprised the police had returned.
“People were beaten up, pregnant women were beaten up, children were crying and traumatised during this whole scenario when these things happened. They then demolished all the structures that were on that piece of land, all 849 structures.”
She said she knew there were 849 structures because she was the secretary of a community organisation and had taken a detailed list of heads of every household on the land.
Since the removals, they had lived in the Nonzamo community hall.
Xoliswa said the hall was unsuitable as they were living with drug and alcohol abusers.
Her boys, aged 12, 10 and seven, had witnessed the removals and could not concentrate at school.
Albert said he still had a sore neck from the assault and suffered from blurry vision and overwhelming sleepiness sometimes.