Tears, violence amid Marikana evictions
Cape Town - He smashed his spade into the riot shield, pulling back quickly to strike again. People began shouting as police cops in full riot gear marched forward to tackle the two residents scuffling with officers on the front line.
“This is wrong,” shouted someone from behind a shack before rocks began to fly and onlookers darted for cover.
It was the fourth round of evictions in Marikana on Thursday and violent protests erupted in the Philippi township again. Just the day before protesters had attacked police, destroyed a traffic light and smashed the windscreen of a delivery truck in retaliation for the dwellings dismantled in the area.
Squatters, who illegally moved on to the land last Friday, are being evicted after the land owner obtained a court order to have them removed.
Evictions began at around 11.30am just as the sun broke through the dark clouds. Workers made their way through the township, following directions from police present and dismantling empty or newly built shacks with thick iron rods.
As they worked, residents formed a ring around the police, law enforcement officers and workers.
They shouted insults and tried to salvage bits of wood and metal as dwellings collapsed. Initially it seemed residents would not fight back, but when two men - protecting a newly built shack - began attacking officers with a spade, residents were infuriated and began throwing stones.
The projectiles missed their intended targets, bouncing lazily along the uneven and waterlogged ground.
The protest was quickly silenced with the deafening bang of two stun grenades.
Later, as police moved deeper into the township, they met more resistance. Rocks began to fly again as a man with a hammer turned threateningly on a group of riot policemen, sending them fleeing for the safety of a nyala parked on the outskirts.
But after they regrouped, police charged at residents, using stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
They arrested a number of people for throwing stones.
“I don’t understand, what are you doing? I was just sitting in my home,” said one resident as he was dragged towards a police van.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said three people were arrested on charges of public violence.
“One of the police officers was assaulted with a hammer in the face.”
The officer’s face was injured and his finger was cut.
Operations were concluded at 3pm. In the aftermath of the evictions, the township was dotted with empty plots of land where shacks once stood, mattresses lay out in the open surrounded by splintered wood.
“I don’t know what to do,” said Thandiwe Bonga, 22. She had arrived on Thursday to erect a shack only for the police to march in and confiscate her materials. It came as a shock to her grandmother, who screamed and pleaded for them to stop.
Still crying, Bonga said she was exhausted.
“I was told by the other residents that they would not let the police evict me. They said this is a place where you don’t pay rent and no one can tell you what to do… Now look at this. All my money is gone.”
She spent R3 500 on the corrugated iron and wooden frame that was meant to be her new home.
Mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith said 102 structures had been demolished during the evictions.
By Thursday night there were still reports of sporadic stone-throwing in the township. Van Wyk said police were still deployed in the area to deal with any further violence.