Cape Argus: Leader held on violence charge

June 02, 2009 Edition 1


A community leader has been arrested and charged with public violence after a clash between police and a group of people who have been sleeping on an open field in Macassar Village.

Their informal dwellings were dismantled by the city’s anti-land invasion unit last month.

Mzonke Poni, the chairperson of the Abahlali Basemjondolo activists’ group, was arrested yesterday after aggrieved residents, who say they are tired of sleeping outside in the cold, started burning tyres on a road in Macassar.

Late last month the residents illegally cleared a piece of land alongside the N2 owned by the City of Cape Town and erected structures, vowing not to move from the area.

But those structures were demolished by the city.

A resident, who declined to be named, said the group had started burning tyres yesterday because they were tired of sleeping outside in the cold.

“There are children here who have to wake up in the morning and go to school and the cold is unbearable for them,” said the resident.

She said there were also newborn babies who were staying on the field with their mothers.

“What is happening to us is not fair… when we ask the government to give us houses they don’t and when we build our own homes they destroy them. What are we supposed to do?” she said.

The group’s protest brought police to the field, and Poni was arrested along with a woman who was later released on warning.

Khanyiso Tyani, who is also staying on the field, alleged that the City of Cape was ignoring court interdicts and in the process breaking the law.

“The city is undermining the court interdicts and we want to know why they are doing that,” Tyani said.

City spokesman Charles Cooper said they would continue demolishing illegal structures on city land.

“That piece of land is reserved for houses and we are going to build houses there,” Cooper said.

He said they were not evicting people who had been living on the land for years or many months but were simply removing structures that had had been put on city-owned land.