Hundreds of Hangberg residents protest outside the Hout Bay police station on Tuesday night where 62 people were being held in connection with the clashes between police and residents on the slopes of the Sentinel mountain. Police later released seven. Photo: Matthew Jordaan
Hundreds of Hangberg residents protest outside the Hout Bay police station on Tuesday night where 62 people were being held in connection with the clashes between police and residents on the slopes of the Sentinel mountain. Police later released seven. Photo: Matthew Jordaan

‘Zille has declared war on us’

By Time of article published Sep 22, 2010

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Police and the city’s anti-land invasion unit clashed with Hangberg residents for the second day, as residents tried to stop authorities from dismantling shacks on a firebreak on the slopes of the Sentinel.

Officials on the scene said a shack had been built overnight after the city had dismantled 29 unoccupied shacks on Tuesday.

A few rocks were thrown at police and the city employees on Wednesday morning. Police responded by firing rubber bullets. By around 8.30am, the situation was calm.

A statement issued late on Tuesday by a number of community organisation said nothing had been done for more than a decade to have houses built for the homeless people of Hout Bay.

“For all these years the leaders in the community have been able to sway people not to build on the land in question. The City of Cape Town’s reluctance to address the housing problem in Hout Bay has frustrated the residents.

“Now the people’s patience is running out,” read the statement.

On Tuesday, authorities were only able to dismantle the 29 shacks after a battle between Hangberg residents and the police, metro police and city law enforcement officers. Police were pelted with rocks, flares, and petrol bombs.

Police fired at the mob with rubber bullets and arrested 62 suspects.

At least 15 metro police and city law enforcement officers were treated for cuts and bruises.

On Tuesday night, the showdown moved to the Hout Bay police station, where hundreds of people protested, demanding the release of the 62. People from the Imizamo Yethu informal settlement joined the Hangberg residents’ protest.

Police later released seven people.

Fifty-six people are scheduled to appear in the Wynberg Magistrate’s Court on charges of public violence. They spent the night in holding cells at the Wynberg police station, said police.

On Tuesday night, police officers deployed from other areas guarded the entrance to the police station, preventing the protesters from entering.

Relatives of those arrested milled around the police station premises, some still in pyjamas.

Quinton Mento said he was trying to get information about his 19-year-old daughter who had been detained since 11am.

Mento is among the 54 families facing an uncertain future after the city indicated it would seek an eviction order for those families occupying shacks on the Sentinel.

He said he had lived on the Sentilel’s slopes for 22 years, and in Hout Bay for 47 years.

“There is no way they are going to make us move. If they come with force again, we will have to do what we did today. We will never stand still and let them do this. (Premier Helen) Zille has declared war on us,” said Mento.

He added that if the government failed to provide them with proper housing, it had no right to evict them.

City of Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton confirmed that 29 “unoccupied” homes were demolished yesterday. The city had first indicated 17 buildings had been demolished. It then revised this figure to 20.

She said the city would ask the court for eviction orders for the 54 occupied homes still standing on the firebreak on the Sentinal’s slopes.

Hatton said that when the anti-invasion unit had, on other occasions, tried to demolish illegal structures, they had been met with violent resistance.

During a community meeting yesterday afternoon, leaders made a call for calm. One of them, Greg Louw, condemned the “brutality” of the clashes.

Louw said all the Hangberg residents wanted was to talk to the government and ask for services.

The Western Cape Education Department closed Hout Bay High School and Sentinel Primary yesterday.

Bronagh Casey, spokeswoman for Education MEC Donald Grant, said matrics at Hout Bay High were to have written their maths and maths literacy exams but this had been cancelled because of the disruptions in the area.

They were scheduled to write the exams today, she said.

Throughout the day residents exchanged stories of how they had been injured, showing off bruises where they were shot in the thigh or on their torsos.

One man was hit on his hand and a woman’s head was bleeding.

People shared stories of neighbours who had been shot in the face and on their genitals.

The Hangberg residents also attacked the Panorama Hill complex, an up-market block of flats erected at the entrance to Hangberg, damaging almost all the windows and several vehicles parked in the complex, as they pelted the building with rocks.

Once enforcement officers retreated, Hangberg residents began to throw stones at the Diamond Discount Liquor store and one residents flung a petrol bomb at the gates of the shop.

Police dispersed the crowd and doused the flames before the fire spread.

By lunchtime, after the chaos had subsided, the city’s cleansing department moved in to clear the remnants of the battle.

Hatton said 15 city law enforcement officers and Metro police were injured, suffering mostly bruises or lacerations to their ankles, legs, hands or faces from the rocks that were hurled at them.

One officer was admitted to hospital after a rock hit him in the face.

The officer was escorted down the hill with blood streaming down his face.

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