Outrage as City of Cape Town officers wound nine
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Cape Town - The City of Cape Town’s law enforcement officers have once again drawn sharp criticism from human rights activists and vulnerable residents after they opened fire with rubber bullets at land occupiers in Vrygrond, wounding at least nine people, with some being hit in the face.
Violent scenes broke out in the Xakabantu informal settlement at the weekend, which has prompted the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) to write to the City’s safety directorate, condemning their alleged brutality.
The letter follows a series of allegedly heavy-handed actions by law enforcement members, including other incidents of violence in Vrygrond a few weeks ago; the videoed manhandling in November last year of wheelchair-bound Zwelenkosi Ngidi, who had been enquiring about the treatment of Khayelitsha demonstrators at the Civic Centre; and officers referred for disciplinary action in July after they were caught on camera humiliating Khayelitsha resident Bulelani Qolani by forcefully dragging him naked out of his one-room shack.
Xakabantu community activist and resident Bathande Ndabezimbi said people were in their shacks on Sunday when law enforcement swooped in to demolish their structures.
He said around 1000 people live in 700 shacks on the land near Muizenberg, which they have occupied for about four years.
The City has said the land forms part of the False Bay Nature Reserve, formerly known as the False Bay Ecology Park, but a reliable senior human rights source working with the community said although the land is classified as part of the reserve, it is not being maintained as such.’’
Ndabezimbi said people have nowhere to go, and have appealed for help several times in trying to get the land reclassified for them to live on.
“They always do this; demolish our shacks. They leave all our goods broken and do what they want. Our cries are for nothing,” he said.
Executive director for safety and security Richard Bosman said they received the SAHRC letter and would engage with the commission.
“Law enforcement discharged rubber rounds to protect themselves, housing staff and members of a private company who were being stoned. Two people were arrested for public violence and detained at Muizenberg police station,” Bosman said.
Asked for comment on the alleged brutality of law enforcement’s actions, he referred the Cape Times to the previous comment.
The human rights source said attempts were previously made to classify the land for the people to live on, but have so far been unsuccessful.
“What is confusing is that the City has provided toilets for residents living in Xakabantu which are emptied once a week. This confers legitimacy concerning existing residency.
“Electricity and water has not yet been provided permanently although there are a few broken taps. Residents walk to collect water from nearby homes daily.”
Secretary of the Vrygrond Community Development Trust and Forum Nonkosi Fodo said something needed to be done urgently.
“The community has lived here for years and their pleas are being undermined,” she said.
Mayco member for Human Settlements, Malusi Booi, said the City and law enforcement authorities act to uphold the law and the “City will continue to act as best it can and within the legal parameters to prevent the unlawful occupation of land”.
“The City has had ongoing consultations with the group about the ongoing attempts to unlawfully occupy this land.
“Engagement with community members will continue. The Court granted a final order to the City to prevent the unlawful occupation of the land in question. The City will continue to remove unoccupied and unlawful structures to prevent unlawful occupation of land,” he said.