Bricks, bullets fly in land grab
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May 16 2011
By NATASHA PRINCE
An open field in Tafelsig turned into a war zone yesterday as a group of land invaders pelted police and city law enforcers with rocks and bottles.
The officers retaliated by firing rubber bullets and blasting the invaders with a water cannon to bring them under control.
The group, who call themselves the Mitchell’s Plain Backyarders’ Association, moved on to the Swartklip Sports Field on Saturday.
They built makeshift shacks and set up tents on the field, saying it should belong to them.
Yesterday, members of the city’s Anti-Land Invasion Unit tore down 338 structures and 100 tents before they were forced to retreat.
In tit-for-tat moves, the land invaders continued to move in to rebuild their structures, only for them to be torn down again by a phalanx of policemen, flanked by a water cannon and heavily protected metro police officers.
Residents claimed they had been pepper sprayed, and insisted that metro police had used “live ammunition”, a claim the city strenuously denied.
City of Cape Town spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said rubber bullets had been fired several times, but officers had “definitely not” used live ammunition.
She said two law enforcement officers and a metro police officer were injured.
Police said today 14 people had been arrested after yesterday’s clashes.
Yesterday, residents showed the Cape Argus injuries they said were sustained during the day’s skirmishes. Some said they had been hit by bottles and rocks, and others by rubber bullets.
The water cannon blasted the land invaders with coloured water, marking them for later identification.
This morning, some of the invaders, many of whom had slept in tents on the field last night, were slowly rebuilding their structures.
Cooking fires were dotted across the field, and people started their day by brewing coffee in small pans.
Some said they were uncertain of their next move, with others saying they would try to keep the police at bay without using violence.
Hatton said the area was quiet this morning.
This weekend, another group of people also invaded a plot of land in nearby Kapteinsklip, and city law enforcement officers moved in swiftly to dismantle 75 structures, Hatton said. Building materials were removed from that site.
The plot of land in Tafelsig is city-owned.
“Residents have been trying to illegally occupy the land and we as landowners have the right to prevent the illegal occupation,” Hatton said.
As the invasion started this weekend, members of the Mitchell’s Plain Backyarders’ Association cordoned off “plots” on the Tafelsig field using rope and sticks.
They also assigned erf numbers to people, saying these had been given to them by the council.
But Hatton said the numbers were “certainly not sanctioned by council”.
“We found that the people themselves marked off and pegged the numbers to the area,” she said.
Tempers started flaring yesterday as the Anti-Land Invasion teams moved in to pull down structures on the demarcated “plots”.
One man, Nasief Abrahams, swore as he watched his tent pulled down and shouted: “They don’t do anything for us but they want our vote!”
Abrahams said he, his wife and their two children had been living in a friend’s backyard for seven years.
“All we ever wanted was for the government to offer us a piece of land with electricity and water… they have the budget for other projects. Why can’t they invest in a project that will help us get the land?” he said.
He said he had spent all Saturday night in his tent on the field and he would not go to work because he felt he was fighting a just cause.
“I will keep fighting until I get what I want… we’re going to be back here (today) until we’ve got our land,” he said.
Terence Hosking, spokesman for the Mitchell’s Plain Backyarders’ Association, said they would stay on the land “until the day of death”.
He said it was unfair that backyarders in Tafelsig were paying between R500 and R1 500 to live in people’s yards.
“We have been negotiating with them (the city) and now we’ve said enough is enough.” – Cape Argus