‘We will build again’
Cape Town - The bang of a stun grenade marked the start of the second day of evictions in the Enkanini settlement in Khayelitsha.
Nervous demolition workers, many of whom had dismantled homes in Philippi East just a week before, looked out for flying rocks as they hurriedly began bashing down newly-erected homes on a strip of city-owned land.
People moved on to the land on Monday night after an eviction which saw them clash with the police on Sunday. They worked through the night, and by on Tuesday morning around 300 shacks stood on the “wrong” side of Mew Way.
At first residents formed a human wall to shield the structures on the outskirts near Baden Powell Drive. But the line collapsed when the police, in full riot gear, charged forward - stun grenades and rifles loaded with rubber bullets, at the ready.
“Get out of here, you can’t do this to us,” shouted a fleeing resident as the first clangs of metal rang out over the coastal township.
But for every resident retaliating, there were three saying they “didn’t want any trouble”.
“We are not violent - just let us have our peace,” said a resident from behind a concrete wall.
There was a brief scuffle when a man stood defiantly in the middle of the street. It took five policemen to restrain him, and even when they dragged him to a waiting van he managed to wriggle free - dashing underneath the vehicle where officers couldn’t reach him.
Residents began hurling rocks, but a stun grenade sent them dashing for cover among a maze of shacks.
The man continued to struggle even after the police had dragged him out but he was eventually arrested.
Demolition teams, guided by a vanguard of policemen, worked their way down the homes. Some were not finished and collapsed easily, while others took more effort.
After the evictions were completed, residents gathered on Mew Way. The smoke from a burning tyre billowed over their heads. Some residents threw rocks at cars on Baden Powell Drive.
City director for safety and security Richard Bosman said the police and law enforcement officers had to act quickly when they first discovered that squatters were erecting shacks on the land again on Monday night.
If they were able to “inhabit a structure” - meaning they had technically moved into the shack and slept there - evicting them would become a protracted legal process that could take up to two years, added the portfolio’s mayco member JP Smith.
The swift action seen on Tuesday is likely to be repeated if people invade the land again, which is what many people threatened to do.
“They will not keep us off this land, we will just build again,” said Lungelo Nofemele, as others nodded in agreement. “This land sits empty, that is why we are building there. How can the (city) say it will develop on this land when it’s been empty for so long.”
But Smith dismissed these justifications. “What it comes down to is people are breaking the law and constitutionally we need to protect that land and the landowner.”
Unlike in Marikana in Philippi East, where Smith suspected there was a political agenda, he said residents in Enkanini were just taking chances. “They can see we are busy in Philippi so they try their luck here.”
He rubbished claims that residents had no other choice. Some, such as Nosiphiwe Mthathi, said the main part of the Enkanini township was overcrowded and expensive.
“Not one of these people is coming from nothing, they have left behind homes to try and take something that doesn’t belong to them,” said Smith.
Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said on Tuesday night there was a protest on the corner of Mew Way and Lindela Road. They blocked Baden Powell Drive, Mew Way and Lindela road with burning tyres and other debris.
He said one person had been arrested during the evictions for riotous behaviour but released later.
“We have opened four cases of malicious damage to property - after police and law enforcement vehicles were stoned - and one of theft out of a motor vehicle after a private car was stoned and the driver was robbed of his cellphone,” he added. The roads were closed and traffic was diverted.
“The situation is under control at this point,” he said at around 6pm.