About 100 people marched to the Harare Police Station in Khayelitsha, Cape Town, on 2 July 2020 to protest against the City of Cape Town’s demolition of four shacks in eThembeni the day before. Video footage of the demolitions went viral after the City’s anti-land invasion unit and metro police were seen dragging Bulelani Qholani naked out of his shack and beating him repeatedly before tearing his shack down. The City later suspended the police officers involved, pending an investigation.
The Khayelitsha Community Action Network, Ndifuna Ukwazi, Social Justice Coalition and Rent Strike South Africa were among the groups supporting the march. Protesters also gathered outside mayoral committee member for housing Malusi Booi’s house after the evictions. Later, they criticised the DA’s City administrators for saying protesters had breached Booi’s privacy.
“They claim the community whose homes were demolished in the most inhuman manner were invading his privacy. What of the privacy of the gentleman forced out of his home naked? What of the people [who] were left to sleep outside? The City carried out this eviction in the most dehumanising manner towards poor black people. We demand all the confiscated material … be returned to their owners,” said march organisers Buhle Booi and Ntsiki Dlulani. The Legal Resources Centre has offered its backing to those evicted.
On 1 July, Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Lindiwe Sisulu who has previously overseen evictions has now called on the Western Cape government to hold officials to account. “The violation of someone’s dignity has no place in democratic South Africa,” she said.
Evictions were prohibited under level 5 lockdown regulations. But since March, the City of Cape Town, the eThekwini municipality in Durban and others have been violently evicting residents who have been living in shack settlements for months.
In Eersterust in Tshwane, families were left out in the cold after protesting against a lack of housing. Residents had built structures on vacant land, which were subsequently demolished. Similar scenes also recently played out in Lawley, Gauteng.
In Malmesbury, about 50km from Cape Town, police fired tear gas into the shack settlement of Chatsworth, Silvertown, for four hours on 2 July. Residents have been without water, electricity or toilets for seven years. Community activist Kini Ntanjana said residents recently visited the municipality to ask for electricity during the government’s Covid-19 lockdown so their children could do their schoolwork. The police responded by firing tear gas at the settlement and arresting one person, who was released a few hours later after residents protested.
“We can’t breathe. They shot four rounds of tear gas within 15 minutes. The whole place is full of tear gas. We’ve got pregnant women, asthmatic people, kids, infants and newborns here. We are now covering our heads and gargling with salt water. Last time, they shot 48 canisters of tear gas at us and some of us had to be taken to hospital,” said Ntanjana.
This article first appeared in New Frame.