People crawl under a roll of barbed wire during the evictions in Lwandle in June. File picture: Cindy Waxa

Cape Town - Lwandle residents were given 10 minutes to pack up and move out of their shacks when police swept in for the second day to evict them in June, the ministerial inquiry has been told.

Sisanda Mbayimbayi, who settled on the land owned by the SA National Roads Agency (Sanral) in December last year, was one of many residents who testified at the hearing held at the Lwandle Community Hall yesterday.

She described events of the three days – in February and June – on which residents were evicted.

She said if Lwandle residents had known they were living on privately owned land, they would not have settled there.

She said the only reasons she and other backyarders had moved on to the land were that it was unfenced and there were no notice boards saying it was private property.

“When I and other people were looking for land to stay, we went to the Sanral land because there was no one. There was no notice board, there was no fence around it. It was just open. That is why we went there. None of us knew who the land belonged to.”

Mbayimbayi, a student in administrative studies, said she had moved with her 4-year-old son, Koyola, to the settlement because the backyard shack she had been sharing with her sister was overcrowded.

“I never asked if I could build there. I saw there were other people going to build shacks and decided to do the same. I chose a piece of land and lived alone with my son.”

During the first eviction on February 3, Mbayimbayi lost all her possessions.

At the time, her son was in the Eastern Cape, she said.

“We were asked to move out and our shacks were demolished. The police did not come back the next day and we went back to the land. The police did not come again and we lived on the land.”

On June 2, people were again evicted, “but it was worse than other times”.

“I woke up and saw the commotion. The police started shooting tear gas and rubber bullets in the air… they chased us during the day. At about 2pm everything stopped.”

On June 3, police were in the area again and gave residents 10 minutes to pack up and move out of their shacks, Mbayimbayi said.

Asked by inquiry member Butch Steyn why she had not packed on the afternoon of June 2, after police had stopped their action, Mbayimbayi said: “We went back to our shacks because we thought the police would not come back... But the police came again and this time they destroyed my shack with all my belongings. Some of the appliances were put on a truck and taken away”

Sisanda Konjake, who was not a Lwandle resident but saw what took place, testified: “I am disappointed with Sanral and the government. This is what the apartheid government did to us. Why is the current government doing the same?”

The inquiry panel was satisfied with the public hearings phase of the hearings, spokesman Vusi Tshose said.

Police would testify next week. The SAPS would be the last of the state organisations to testify.

The inquiry, chaired by advocate Denzil Potgieter, has until August 5 to conclude its work, but Tshose said an extension would be granted if necessary.

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Cape Times