Cape Times: Eye lost after rubber bullet strikes

Eye lost after rubber bullet strikes

September 27 2010 at 06:57am

By Caryn Dolley

Hangberg resident Auriol Cloete made breakfast for her children, saw two of them off to school and felt proud as she sat in the house she had built for them.

Hours later the mother of four was partially blind, cowering on her bed, bleeding from the left eye, and screaming at her children to keep lying flat on the floor as police and residents clashed outside.

“My life changed for ever. I’ll never forget that day,” Cloete, 35, said on Sunday after attending a church service in Hangberg.

She was injured last Tuesday when violence broke out between residents and police who had entered the settlement to escort workers contracted by the City of Cape Town to demolish about 20 unoccupied dwellings erected illegally on a firebreak.

Residents threw rocks and petrol bombs and fired distress flares at officers who used rubber bullets in retaliation.

A rubber bullet hit Cloete in the left eye.

“I was standing in a flat. This big police truck was driving in the road above us. This policeman was shooting through a door in the top of the truck. I was shot. The bullet went straight into my eye. That moment I knew I lost my eye,” she said.

Cloete ran back into her house as it was too dangerous to try to get to an ambulance.

“I lay on my bed for four and a half hours without treatment. I was helpless. My children, aged two, five and seven, watched me. They could see my eyeball hanging out. They were too scared to come near me. I just shouted they must keep flat on the floor and not look outside,” she said, wiping tears from her right eye.

Later, she was taken to hospital with another resident, who was apparently also shot in the left eye, and who is now unable to see because his right eye has become infected.

As Cloete stood outside the church yesterday, a number of residents came to greet her and see how she was doing.

Others compared injuries from last week’s clashes.

A resident told her a third person was still in hospital as a rubber bullet lodged in his eye had not yet been removed.

Cloete, who worked whenever she could secure a job, has lived in Hangberg all her life and had spent more than R60 000 on a home for her children.

Yesterday she said she was worried because she did not know if it was one of at least 50 occupied structures the City of Cape Town was still trying to have demolished.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said it might be known by tomorrow whether the courts would allow the demolitions.

Cloete said she was terrified further violence would break out if this happened.

“I’m very scared. My children are terrified. I want to still live here though. This is my community,” she said.

Cloete, currently unemployed, cried as she thought about how her life had changed since last week. “I can’t even pour water for myself. I can’t look after my children. I’m staying with my mother for now.”

She said she was considering lodging a complaint with the Independent Complaints Directorate about being shot. – Cape Times