Rubber bullets fly in Mamelodi - PICS

By LERATO TSHIPE Time of article published Aug 24, 2016

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Pretoria - Dramatic moments by Pretoria News photographer Oupa Mokoena may appear reminiscent of the apartheid era; yet they were captured on Tuesday near the Heatherly Cemetery in Mamelodi East.

A stun-grenade discharged by police sent people running for cover, and when the notorious Red Ants, crowbars in hand, surrounded a man lying on the ground, another cowered nearby, head buried in his hands.

The target of the attack was a group of residents had forcibly occupied vacant RDP houses in the area, going so far as to name it Asinavalo Estate, and spray-paint their names on the outside walls.

But the City of Tshwane indicated that an eviction was in order for the illegal occupants of the houses, which were not yet ready for occupation.

After hearing that the SAPS, Tshwane Metro and the Red Ants were on the way, the occupiers gathered on the roadside, blocking it with bricks and burning rubble. By that time, police and Red Ants were on their guard on the other side of the road, trying to ensure that the situation remained calm rather than lead to ugly confrontation as has happened during evictions in and around the city in the past.

The occupiers were having none of it, and soon words were being exchanged. And then the group raised their hands and in unison hummed the anti-apartheid folk song Senzeni na? (What Have We Done?), marching towards the houses hands aloft, seemingly indicating that they were peaceful, and not wanting to fight.

The next moment police reacted, with the men in blue firing rubber bullets to disperse the group. They retreated, ducking and diving for cover.

Among those running for dear life was Sammy Ndou, who claimed he was shot at by the police and later attacked by the Red Ants. “I was unarmed and wanted no fight; why did they beat me, what wrong was I doing?”

The police also fired towards the journalists who tried to interview Ndou, rubber bullets raining down around them too.

Despite the eviction, the group has threatened to reoccupy the houses. “We are going back to our houses today. We will shed blood for what it is worth,” said one occupier. Others said they could not wait any longer for the city and provincial government to allocate RDP houses, adding that the houses were empty.

Acting mayoral spokesman Matthew Gerstner said the evictees had not complied with police instructions and became violent.

The police were forced to fire rubber bullets after they came under attack from the people who had illegally occupied the houses, he said.

“The City of Tshwane condemns criminal behaviour in illegally occupying the houses and has issued a stern warning to the occupiers that lawlessness would not be tolerated,” said Gerstner. “Police will maintain a visible presence on the ground and deal decisively with anyone who attempts to break the law. About 1 800 units had been built and 720 are ready for occupation, while the construction of the others was still being finalised.”

None of the illegal occupiers were on the list of approved beneficiaries, and the operation to end their illegal occupation now makes way for the legal beneficiaries to receive the houses they deserve, Gerstner added.

Meanwhile, residents of Sunvalley in Mabopane were also evicted from vacant land they had occupied near the local railway station since June. They told the Pretoria News it was the fourth time they were being evicted by the Red Ants.

The residents also blockaded roads with bricks and gathered to express their frustrations. Lesiba Mathonsi, one of them, said: “Why is the government against our basic right; what wrong are we doing here? We vote for them and put them in power so they can help us, but they instead turn their backs on us.”

Another asked: “Why do we have to shed blood before we can get what we need, while foreign nationals live freely in our land?”

Community leaders met with police officials and said they were asked to put down their names. However they refused for fear of “selling ourselves to the city and police”.

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Pretoria News

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