Cape Town - There was a grim start for some Gugulethu residents on Thursday, after chaos erupted when a private company ordered occupants from the Uluntu Centre crèche at NY 108 to leave the premises.
According to residents, authorities arrived at the premises at 4am to carry out the eviction. When residents retaliated, rubber bullets and stun grenades were used to disperse the crowd.
Provincial police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joseph Swartbooi said protesters barricaded the road with burning tyres and rubble, leaving police no choice but to use rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowd.
Principal of the crèche Nombulelo Mzimkhulu said she was distressed at how the matter was handled, as not only was the removal not considerate of the children, but their safety and security was compromised.
“It is quite sad that the children whom we take care of had to witness all of this.”
“They just came to take everything out and to top it all, they started to shoot rubber bullets right in front of the children. We had to take them elsewhere because safety is what they failed to take into consideration.”
“We’ve been operating for more than 30 years and this situation does not dignify us. This situation to evict us started a while back, but they were not successful then. It started again last year, however I managed to get a lawyer and we were supposed to go to court now in March.
“I know my rights and this was not the right way to go about this considering there were children involved. They failed to consider their safety and smearing (sic) violence around them was adding more fuel to the fire,” said Mzimkhulu.
One of the parents who was present at the eviction, Marie May Takadiry, said that it had been an emotionally draining morning, as the community banded together to stop the eviction.
“I am a wreck as we speak. This is emotionally draining because having to hear that the child you dropped off in the morning was in the midst of such violence, leaving them vulnerable to such predicaments - it's terrifying.
“Successful people have come from this crèche since its inception and what is more frustrating is that we’ve paid our fees already and looking at the state of the situation, we cannot expect the principal to give the fees back. To top it off crèches around the area are already full. Irrespective of the legalities, the children's safety should have been put first and made a priority to do things in an orderly manner,” said Takadiry.
The private company, Erf 255 Gugulethu (Pty) Ltd issued a statement saying the company attempted throughout 2019 to reach an agreement with the crèche, situated on the property they bought to develop, however the negotiations did not lead to any resolution. They also insisted that there were no children during the eviction and gave instruction that it takes place during recess.
“The concept was to develop the centre, in concert with the community, with community shops and surrounding anchor tenants. Eventually, in January 2020, we were left with no option other than to apply for eviction. The negotiations had got nowhere, and no utilities at all were being paid, let alone anything else.
“The crèche was to be constructed at 150m2, together with 250m2 of grassed area paid for by ourselves, at a cost of R9 000 per square metre. Modern, new, and safe for the children. We repeatedly negotiated during the course of 2020 and 2021 to incorporate the creche as part of the development, however our company had to literally bend over backwards, without any success.
“We have made and will continue to make every effort to conciliate. This is a property which is zoned commercial, which we wish to develop in order to make facilities available to the broader Gugulethu community. The only reason that the crèche is not part of it, is their failure to accept any of our generous offers,” said the company.
The City's Mayoral Committee Member for Community Services and Health, Councillor Patricia Van der Ross said in the interest of the safety of the children attending the crèche, the Social Development and Early Childhood Development Department dispatched staff to assess the situation and advise accordingly.