Sowetan: Shack dwellers say no to eviction

23-Sep-2010 | Francis Hweshe
Sun Sep 26 23:46:01 SAST 2010

Shack dwellers say no to eviction

ANGRY Hangberg residents in Hout Bay have accused Premier Helen Zille of declaring martial law and using brute force to try and evict them from the land.

* Cosatu rallies behind ‘squatters’

Hangberg , which is on the slopes of Sentinel mountain, looked like a war zone yesterday, with hundreds of armed police camping around the area.

Community members, mostly fishermen, said they could not go out to the sea since they feared police harassment.

They complained that children had been traumatised after witnessing law-enforcement officers bring down 17 shacks using electric chain saws.

Fifteen police officers and five residents were injured when clashes broke out on Tuesday.

A resident, John Doe, said: “It’s martial law. The police don’t want us to walk around. They were stopping buses and taxis in the morning.

“We now cannot walk freely. We don’t know what is coming next. People don’t know what to do. They are afraid to go to work.

“We have to catch fish to earn a living but now we can’t. On Tuesday we fought with police to protect our houses for six hard hours. We are still prepared to die for our land, it’s our heritage.”

Kevin Davids, a community leader, said his people refused to be removed to Blikkiesdorp, “which is like a Vietnam concentration camp”.

He said they were ready to protect their homes, after the city had applied for a court order to demolish 54 occupied shacks.

Davids accused Zille of being arrogant by trying to evict people without offering them an alternative.

“We are asking Zille to come back here with a solution and not a problem. We belong here. We are going to die here. This is our home,” he said.

Davids said in August last year they had prevented the Sentinel mountain from being auctioned to some of the richest people in the world.

“We heard that Bill Gates and Oprah Winfrey wanted to buy our land and protested.

“Hellen Zille is bringing war to us. Our people are not violent, they don’t have guns. We are a peaceful community,” Davids said.

Doe, who took Sowetan deep into the community, said the heavy police presence was creating the impression that “we are inbred, barbaric and don’t have brains”.

The city said the shacks they destroyed had encroached on the firebreak area and nature reserve.

“We have been here for 20 years. They (city) want to take this place because it is prime land and offers the best view of Hout Bay harbour,” Doe said.

Meanwhile, Sapa reports that charges of public violence against 40 of the 58 Hangberg, Hout Bay, residents were withdrawn in the Wynberg magistrate’s court yesterday.

Seventeen other residents were released on warning, while one was discharged because he could not be linked to the alleged crime, Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch said.

Cosatu in the Western Cape described the arrest of the residents as a “war against poor people by the DA”.

But, DA-run City of Cape Town spokesperson Kylie Hatton insisted that all the shacks that were demolished had no people living in them.