Elsies River residents protest after family's shack demolished

2017-03-30 19:13
A boy watches the conflict from the window of his home in Gaba Village, Elsies River. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

A boy watches the conflict from the window of his home in Gaba Village, Elsies River. (Ashraf Hendricks, GroundUp)

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Cape Town - Leonsdale, in Elsies River, erupted in violence after the City of Cape Town's anti-land invasion unit tore down a family's home on Wednesday.

Protesters threw rocks at police and blocked streets with burning tyres, furniture, and mattresses. Police responded with rubber bullets, teargas and stun grenades, GroundUp reported.

For hours, there were running battles between police and protesters in the streets and between the blocks of flats.

Police arrested four men, aged between 18 and 30, for alleged public violence.

The trouble started after Maria Muller, her son Virgil, and her 3-year-old granddaughter were notified on Tuesday that their one-room Wendy house would be torn down.

The structure was built last Friday. The family has been on a housing waiting list for more than 20 years.

Ward 26 councillor Franchesca Walker, who was elected in August, said the city had given the owner of the structure the option of dismantling it himself, but he defied the notice.

"Thus the anti-land invasion unit had to act."

At 12:00 on Tuesday, the family and residents met Walker in an attempt to find a solution. After this failed, community leader Hamish Bradley Arries warned that they would stand by the family.

After clashes over evictions in August 2016, locals came to an agreement with City officials that 131 structures would be allowed on the vacant land. Walker said Muller's structure was the 132nd.

'I will go to jail'

Walker said illegally erected vacant structures could be removed without a court order.

According to Muller, Walker said her family could be relocated in Blikkiesdorp, but she did not want to stay there.

Early on Wednesday afternoon, the unit arrived, along with more than a dozen law enforcement officers and two police Nyalas.

"They cannot even do this for the gangsters when we call them to the community for gang wars," commented Arries.

In the ensuing clashes between police and residents, rocks were thrown at Walker's office. Molotov cocktails made from 750ml beer bottles were flung through the windows, but they failed to burn down the office.

"She [Walker] talks down on this community, as if this community has no right to exist," said Arries.

With their home demolished, Virgil Muller said: "My family is my responsibility, so I will stand for my family. I will go to jail to save my house. The [Wendy] house costs over R10 000."

On Wednesday night, the family slept in the rubbish bin storage room of the Leo Mews flats in Leonsdale.

Read more on:    cape town  |  housing  |  protests

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