“I was in my room washing. Then they threw me outside.” Bulelani Qolani describes how he was dragged naked from his shack

“The video of me is important so people see the City of Cape Town”

By James Stent

2 July 2020

GroundUp spoke to Bulelani Qolani, who was dragged from his shack on Wednesday, naked, by City of Cape Town law enforcement officers. The officers have been suspended. Photo: James Stent

“I was in my room washing. I asked them for one minute. Then they threw me outside.” Bulelani Qolani described how on Wednesday he was dragged naked from his home by City of Cape Town law enforcement officers sent to demolish shacks at a site called eThembeni, near Empolweni, in Khayelitsha.

The video of Qolani being dragged from the shack, filmed by Social Justice Coalition (SJC) activist Bonga Zamisa, was widely shared on social media. Late on Wednesday City’s Executive Director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman, issued a media statement announcing that the City was “suspending four staff members involved in the incident pending the outcome of the investigation.” Bosman went on to say, “We are saddened by the conduct depicted on the video footage, and we do not condone any forceful and dehumanising conduct by our staff members.”

On Thursday Qolani was outside the Cape Town Civic Centre, where he and activists from the Khayelitsha Community Action Network, Ndifuna Ukwazi, and the SJC had gathered to demand to speak to City of Cape Town Mayor Dan Plato.

“Yesterday, I was at home in my house. The City of Cape Town came to evict me, and to break down my house,” Qolani told GroundUp.

“I asked them: ‘Guys, where is your court order?’. They didn’t have a court order. I told them, ‘Bring up the court order, bring up the permit’. I was in my room, washing. I asked them to wait for two minutes outside the house. The one guy would not listen to me. He came in and told me to get out. I asked them for one minute. Then they threw me outside.

“I’ve been staying here at eThembeni for four months, since 16 March.”

Qolani said four houses had been destroyed. He had a cut on his forehead and said he had injuries on his stomach.

“I still need to go to the hospital to have them tend to my injuries. But I needed to come to the City of Cape Town, to Malusi [Booi, Mayco Member for Human Settlements]. I need to ask Malusi why he had to victimise me during lockdown. He must go to the people whose houses were torn down, and tell them why.”

Qolani said he had been to Booi’s house last night with other protesters but the Mayco member had not been at home. The protesters had also been to see Mayco Member for Safety and Security JP Smith but he was not at home either.

“I will stay at eThembeni - I need my rights. I want my dignity. Where is my dignity in the City of Cape Town?

“I want my dignity, I want my house, I want to be safe.”

Plato issued a statement on Thursday welcoming the suspension of the four officers involved. “Having watched the video of law enforcement officers responding to an illegal land invasion in Khayelitsha yesterday, and the shameful circumstances that Mr Bulelani Qolani was subjected to, I want to make it clear that this is not the type of conduct that we tolerate in this City … I want to acknowledge that Mr Qolani’s dignity was impaired and I am truly sorry for what he experienced.”

“After they destroyed my house, they left me there,” said Qolani. “My possessions were damaged, my food, my pap, was torn apart. I want my house, and all the stuff in my house back.

“The video of me is important, for people to see the City of Cape Town.”