WATCH: Residents living in fear as shack dwellers and city clash
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A youngster living in the Cato Manor informal settlement claimed he was shot by the city’s land invasion unit on Friday. On Saturday, a Bonela home was petrol-bombed.
For months, a group of informal shack dwellers have allegedly been trying to build informal houses on a green belt of land stretching from Wiggins Road into Blinkbonnie Road in Bonela.
The shack dwellers had apparently chopped down trees, cleared bushes and marked out plots of land.
On Friday, the city tried to remove the shack dwellers, resulting in violent clashes.
Shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo last month obtained an interim interdict preventing the municipality from demolishing shacks. The court order also allowed for shacks which were destroyed to be rebuilt.
According to Abahlali, while their members were being attacked on Friday, the movement was served with an urgent high court application from the city to have 75 families removed from the interim interdict.
S’bu Zikode, of Abahlali, said this application was dismissed, but the unit still destroyed all the shacks.
Speaking to the Daily News yesterday,18-year-old Mlungisi Mokoena said he was in his shack when people from the land invasion unit stormed in.
“They said I must get out of the room. I told them I would not as I was covered by the (court) order. They then forcefully removed me from the room and started to fire rubber bullets at me.”
He said: “As I was running away, one of the two men took out a real gun and fired a shot. The bullet hit me on my right leg and went through my left leg. I fell down.”
The men from the unit apparently ran away as community members rushed towards them. The SAPS were also present. “A friend took me to hospital,” Mlungisi said.
Doctors at King Edward VIII Hospital apparently told him there was a possibility he would never walk properly again.
The grade 11 pupil said: “People are living fear, but they will keep fighting.”
Bonela residents said they were living in constant fear and anger.
Vinothamoney Naidoo, 58, of Tait Place, said their home was near the front line where a month-long attempt to invade a green belt of land along Blinkbonnie Road was occurring.
On Saturday her husband, Ahmed Peroo, had gone to the Cato Manor police station to lay a charge of intimidation. While Naidoo was standing in her front yard, with a 4-year-old child in her care, she heard a thud and then saw flames. They believe their house was petrol-bombed.
“The fire spread rapidly through the roof and house. Two relatives sleeping in the room had to break the burglar guards and jump out through the window. We tried using buckets of water, but the flames were too high,” she said.
The family have to rebuild their lives. They were left with only the clothes on their backs. They slept in a shed on the property.
At a meeting later on Saturday, Deputy Mayor Fawzia Peer said the city would investigate.
Another Bonela resident, Viresh Haripersad, said: “There is a lot of animosity in the area. Cars are stoned. Children can’t got to school. It’s crazy.”
Haripersad said shack dwellers had to follow proper procedures if they wanted land and go through the municipality.
He said they were living in a state of fear. “People have never lived this kind of life before. This is ruthless. I don’t think this is going to be resolved in a diplomatic way,” he said.
Another Bonela couple said they slept in shifts so that they could constantly be on the lookout for any possible attacks. The woman, who did not want to be named, had been living in the area for 24 years.
She said she had given her 6-year-old daughter a cellphone and taught her how to call emergency services numbers in case they were attacked. In their road, she said, there had been multiple break-ins and armed robberies in the past two weeks.
“It is not that we have a problem with them (shack dwellers), but their approach is wrong.”
Another resident said they were angry at the constant building of shacks in the area and believed they had become a security threat to them.
“They petrol-bombed a house. We are only trying to protect ourselves. People are angry and they want to fight back, but they have left it for too long.”
The 21-year-old said moving out was not an option for the family because they would have to sell their house at a “substantially lower price”.
Peer said she was worried about the situation because it could turn extremely violent. She said on Saturday a group of about 50 to 60 people, armed with pangas and bush knives, walked down the roads.
She said the municipality tried to bring forward the court matter, where they were barred from removing shacks, but the application was rejected.
Peer told residents a metro police satellite station would be brought in from Isipingo and cameras would be used to monitor the land invasions in Bonela.
She said the land was owned by the Provincial Human Settlements Department.
“Additional metro police will be deployed throughout the day. We are trying to establish where this particular group is coming from,” Peer said.
This was the interim solution until the municipality could contest the interim court order on September 1.
Police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbhele said no arrests had been made yet, but they were closely monitoring the situation.