Vrygrond community leader taken away by police after protest outside Cape Town Civic Centre

2018-06-26 18:48
SA police. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

SA police. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Capricorn residents had finished their protest on Tuesday at the Cape Town Civic Centre and were waiting for a train back to the Southern Suburbs when one protester was taken away by police.

"They were following us to the station. Police officials claimed that she had stolen something," said Siya Joki.

The woman was put into a white, unmarked van at the civic centre as around 20 angry residents demanded to know what she had done wrong and where the police officers were taking her.

Joki, 37, believes she was taken away because she was a community leader.

Western Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andre Traut confirmed that a woman was arrested by metro police on a charge of theft during the protest. She has yet to be charged. 

Promises made

Earlier Mayor Patricia de Lille briefly addressed the crowd gathered outside the civic centre.

"You have rejected everything that the City has put on the table," she shouted to jeers from the residents before being whisked away.

Joki, who is a backyarder in Capricorn, said residents were moved out of Vrygrond many years ago with the promise that they would be able to move back to the area in a few years and that it would have better facilities.

"When we went back, we were told it's a nature reserve. We want a proper high school and other things," he said, exasperated.

"Where we live now, it is overcrowded. It's like [the slums of] Mexico. Everything is bad and there are lots of diseases."

According to Vrygrond resident Themba Mapofu, De Lille has previously been told by community members that they want a piece of land known as Xakabantu.

"De Lille abandoned us here. She said nothing of substance to us; instead, [she's] telling us she has another engagement in Khayelitsha," he said.

The mayor later clarified in a statement that councillors and City of Cape Town officials had engaged with community members on four occasions.

In May, officials pointed out three pieces of land they said could be developed for the benefit of the people of Vrygrond.

READ: Burning tyres put Cape Town traffic officials on high alert for protest flare-up

De Lille said that the proposal was rejected by the Vrygrond Community Forum.

"The City has made it clear during these meetings and through correspondence with the forum that the land that was invaded is near an active landfill site," she said.

"The forum wants the City to allow residents to settle on the buffer zone which is there to keep a safe distance between the residential area and the landfill site. The landfill site poses potential risks to human beings close to it due to the gas being extracted there."

She added that she was still willing to have further discussions with the forum.

Residents to consult

Mapofu said community members who were present at the march would now go back to Vrygrond and consult with other members of the community.

"We'll tell the people in our community that De Lille neglected us and then we will pave a way forward from there."

The 56-year-old resident said that he lived in a one-bedroom house with eight children.

"We raised our dissatisfaction at these one-roomed houses on the basis that we have children and those houses are small," he said.

"We were promised that we would get extensions on our houses, and yet, that has not happened. That promise was made in 2016 and to this day, there has been no follow-up on that."

Read more on:    cape town  |  protests

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