About 80 people, many with young children, were left homeless on Thursday (22.01.2009) when Metro police and city authorities stormed their informal settlement near Du Noon in Cape Town, demolishing 35 shacks built illegally along a Transnet railway line.
Situated behind Du Noon township near Milnerton, the Siyahlala informal settlement is home to over 1000 people, many of whom were previously backyarders in Du Noon.
Residents become angry during the demolitions and stones where thrown at the police. No injuries were reported, however.
Henriatte Maime, 33, said she had been taking a bath when armed Metro police burst into her one-roomed shack.
“I was naked. They started breaking the shack down and they did not care,” she said.
Lindiwe Jusaya, 36, said she had just finished preparing lunch for her five children when men armed with iron bars and crowbars, backed by Metro police, started demolishing her home.
She said her children had watched her yelling at the cops to stop so that she could remove her possessions from the shack. She said her children had been left traumatised by the experience.
“They left us homeless and broken-hearted,” said Jusaya.
Community leader Khaya Mbunyuza, 32, said the community had experienced similar demolitions on previous occasions.
“We are very desperate. We don’t have land yet they victimise us. They don’t give us alternative accommodation when they demolish our shacks,” said Mbunyuza.
But Stephen Hayward, City of Cape Town Head of Housing and Anti Land Invasion, while confirming that 35 shacks had been demolished, said a warning had been issued during a site inspection on 18 January that shack building in the settlement should be halted.
He said residents had been warned that the city had a zero tolerance approach to illegal land invasions.
He said the warnings had not been heeded and a contingent of city staff and law enforcement officials armed with shotguns loaded with rubber bullets had moved in to demolish the shacks.
He said at one point a crowd that had gathered had become volatile, but the situation had been contained.
Hayward promised that the city would keep going back to demolish the shacks.
“If necessary we are going to get a court interdict to prevent people from erecting shacks on the property,” he said.
The land on which the settlement is built is owned by Transnet, but Hayward said the city had acted to prevent land grabs in its jurisdiction.
A few hours after the demolitions, the shacks were already being rebuilt, however.
Hlumile Stemela, the ANC councillor for the area, said the demolitions were “inhumane and unacceptable”.
“They must not do something here without my consent. I was elected by people to represent them. From now I don’t want to see this happening. They are provoking us.”