Albert Masakala was beaten, pinned to the ground and pepper sprayed. Photo: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - Albert Masakala recalled the day of the Lwandle evictions as one where he was violently beaten, pinned to the ground and had pepper spray sprayed into his nostrils.

Masakala, 38, and his wife Xoliswa, 28, were among the many residents who testified at the ministerial inquiry into the evictions held at the Lwandle Community Hall on Tuesday.

The Masakala family were among hundreds of people removed from the land owned by the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral) in Lwandle early last month.

“My pain was terrible. I was physically choked and pinned down to the ground. I could not understand why they were so brutal. One officer took his knee and kicked it on my face. Another one took my arm and gripped it into a vice position. I don’t know why they did this,” he testified.

A picture of Masakala screaming in pain as he was pinned down by officers dressed in full riot gear appeared on the front page of the Cape Times on June 3.

“They opened my nose and sprayed pepper spray into it. They pulled me up and forced me into (a police bakkie). I questioned one police officer why he was hurting me so much. That officer told me: ‘I am a cow and behaved like one’.”

Masakala said he and nine other residents who were arrested were taken to Strand police station where he complained about his injuries.

“An ambulance came and took me to the doctor. I waited for the doctor but that never happened. We were then taken to Pollsmoor Prison. There I complained about my pains, but no one attended to me. I still feel the pain of that day.”

His wife Xoliswa who also testified, broke down in tears when inquiry chairman Denzil Potgieter asked her to identify herself in various newspaper photographs which captured her bare breast.

“I went out and tried to intervene when they were brutally attacking my husband (Albert). They got hold of me and beat me. They even tore the clothes off. I was naked from the top.”

The Masakalas have been on the land since December.

“Before that we lived in a backyard shack in Asanda Village. I could not afford to pay the rent and an additional R300 for electricity. It was too much. I was working as a volunteer at SABS (South African Bureau of Standards).”

She also said Ses’Khona Peoples Rights Movement leaders Andile Lili and Loyiso Nkohla gave them money for food after they were evicted.

The inquiry also heard that a community committee allocated pieces of Sanral’s land to residents.

Evictee Thobeka Masikana said: “The committee gave us a piece of land to go and live there. I lived there for just one month. There was no payment for the piece of land we were given.”

Masikana, responding to questions from inquiry member Jabu Sosibo, said she was unaware the land had belonged to Sanral.

“We longed to have our own place to stay.”

Xoliswa who also said she was the secretary of the committee said the evictees were recorded on a list before last month’s eviction.

“The land was occupied by backyarders. There was nothing on the land and we decided to go there and build our structures.”

The inquiry headed by Potgieter has until August 5 to conclude its work. Public hearings continue on Thursday.

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Cape Times