Last month, a group of people who had set up structures on a portion of land near the Rondevlei were met with rubber bullets as their informal homes were torn down by law enforcement and the Red Ants security.
Local residents, who refer to themselves as the indigenous Nguni people, erected informal homes on a portion of land bordering the Rondevlei section of the False Bay Nature Reserve, behind Lavender Hill, on Saturday 16 January.
Shaylon Jacobs, one of the land invaders, told People’s Post that all the families who put up their houses on the land are residents of the immediate area.
“We all actually live in our mothers’ yards or front rooms here,” he says, gesturing to the brick-and-mortar homes adjacent to the vacant land.
“We are all families of four to five and the house is too small for us to live with our mothers. A few years ago when they started (building) these houses, there was a query about them being too small. So now I’ve got a girlfriend, I’ve had kids and I’m living in my mother’s front yard,” he explains.
Another resident also says they are all staying in their mothers’ front rooms. “And every morning I must pick up my bed when my mother’s friend comes.”
So, they decided to make use of the vacant space because “this land is open here and there’s no one doing nothing here for over 40 years”, according to Jacobs.
Three days later, on Tuesday 19 January, law enforcement were on the scene to remove the houses, and soon the situation took a violent turn.
Residents showed People’s Post pictures of the people who were allegedly bruised by the impact of the rubber bullets.
A video shows a young mother sitting on a couch with her two-week-old baby as law enforcement dismantles the structure around her. More than 54 structures were reportedly torn down on the day.
Nazma Samodien, the mother of the woman in the video, says she understands that the law may have required such action, but how it was done is what bothers her.
“They took the structure down while the baby was still inside – the small baby, laying on the bed,” she says.
“So the people here shouted that there’s a baby inside and that’s when they said my daughter can get the baby. But they treated us like dogs and that’s what makes me sad. They demolished the house with my gas stove inside – what if it had caught alight?”
She adds that the youngest person shot in the incident is only three years old.
Mayco member for human settlements Malusi Booi says the removal of the structures was part of an operation which came together following complaints from the community.
Spokesperson for law enforcement Wayne Dyason says no injuries were reported to the department. He adds that the use of force was in response to rocks being thrown at staff.
Last week, in an attempt to find an understanding with the government, they invited provincial and City officials to a sit-down regarding the land – a visibly tense discussion took place on Wednesday 10 February.
During the discussion, the official group formed to represent the people, the Rondevlei Uprising Movement, handed over a memorandum of demands. These included a demand for land, services, the return of the materials from the demolished structures, an apology for the violence, a new ward councillor and to stop the “discrimination against our indigenous people”, among other things.
Shanen Rossouw, councillor for ward 110, attended the meeting and accepted the memorandum.
The obstacle preventing the City of Cape Town from using land for housing, she explains, is that it is owned in part by the City, the province and two private owners.
“We are going to have an internal meeting to try to get a hold of the two owners because if they don’t want people to squat, they need to take out an interdict. We also want to find out if the City can buy the land, or what solutions we can find,” says Rossouw.
But, she adds, the final decision does not rest with her.
“I was there (at the meeting) to listen to the people’s needs and to take their demands to the higher powers.” she says.
As to when the City meeting will be held to address the land issue, Rossouw says she can’t confirm a date yet.