Things heat up between residents and authorities at Mpolweni

2020-04-16 06:00
Police in a stand-off with residents of Empolweni in Makhaza.PHOTO: Mzwanele mkalipi

Police in a stand-off with residents of Empolweni in Makhaza.PHOTO: Mzwanele mkalipi

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The African National Congress (ANC) in the province has thrown its weight behind the residents of Mpolweni informal settlement in Makhaza after their building material was allegedly demolished by the City of Cape Town’s law enforcement on Friday 10 April. The residents are accused by the City of illegally invading the land.

When City Vision visited the area on Saturday 11 April, police clashed with residents as they fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them. Residents retaliated by throwing stones at the police. The road was barricaded with burning tyres and rubble.

While law enforcement officers were clearing the closed road, police ordered residents to disperse.

Two infants were allegedly suffocated by the tear gas during the chaos and were rushed to the Khayelitsha Day Hospital (KDH) for medical check-up and their mothers were also admitted.

Resident Abongile Baliso (26) told City Vision she had to lie on the floor when police fired towards the residents. “I was very scared and had to put my child on the floor as the rubber bullets were hitting my shack. I left my shack to come and hide here in a friend’s shack,” she said, adding that the child was affected by the tear gas. They were both rushed to KDH. “I was told I would need to come back on 26 May for a further check up. The doctor said my child’s right lung, seems as if it had an infection,” said the mother of Phawu.

Another resident, Lucia Juze (32) said her one-month-old child, Oluhle was not severely affected.

“We were both admitted after police fired the tear gas while we were inside our shack. This is a terrible situation,” said Juze. She appealed for residents to be given the land.

The two women say they have been living in the area since January and March, respectively.

At least four people were arrested and were each given R500 bail. They face charges of public violence and will appear again at the Khayelitsha magistrate’s court on Friday 24 April.

Provincial leadership of ANC led by Cameron Dugmore, Xolani Sotashe arrived in the area on Tuesday afternoon to quell the emotions. They held a meeting with the leadership behind closed doors.

Addressing residents after the meeting Sotashe apologised for their late arrival. “The City of Cape Town had no right to demolish your shacks under these current conditions facing our country. What has happened here is shocking and disgusting,” said Sotashe and promised to raise the matter with the national government.

Malusi Booi, Mayco member for human settlements, described the illegal occupation of land as direct contravention of the current lockdown regulations.

“A piece of land in Khayelitsha is currently under threat of being illegally invaded and occupied. This attempted illegal occupation is in direct contempt of a court order obtained by the City,” he said in a media statement.

Booi said it must be made clear that no evictions were taking place and only “incomplete, unoccupied and illegal built structures are being removed”.

“The City has to act fairly and recognise all of the other communities who have been waiting patiently for the delivery of services. This is especially important in light of the enormous increase in land invasions across the metro over the past months.

“Some people see the lockdown as an opportunity to illegally and unlawfully occupy land without the permission of the landowner,” said Booi.


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