Residents and police clash in Elsie’s River after homes demolished

“We are indigenous people and we have a right to be here” says community leader

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Man pointing to demolished house
A resident shows a house that was torn down by law enforcement. The demolition of the home set off protest action.

There was violence between police and residents of Elsie’s River on the Cape Flats on Wednesday.

In 9th Avenue, Leonsdale, people live on a field in wendy houses and shacks. The South African Police Service confirmed that on Wednesday morning, law enforcement demolished three homes. Protests erupted in response. Residents burnt barricades blocking on 9th Avenue. Police fired rubber bullets. At the time of writing this report the situation was still volatile.

Two of the homes destroyed belonged to two sisters, Colinesia and Zandre Festus. Their friend, Tameron van der Merwe, spoke to GroundUp. She explained that the sisters’ wendy houses were built on Sunday. She accused law enforcement of not giving any notice. “It took my friend a long time to save R10,000 to buy the wendy house. And why destroy only two Wendy houses, leaving others standing?” asked van der Merwe.

Only a few items were saved from the destroyed homes. Van der Merwe said cupboards and other furniture were destroyed. One of the sisters is a single mother with two children, aged three and ten.

A protester dances in front of burning rubble.

When GroundUp arrived at the scene at about 3pm all primary school children were still at school because parents were afraid to fetch their children before the situation calmed down. Law enforcement officers were firing bullets at about 60 residents who were running up and down 9th Avenue. The protesters retaliated by throwing stones.

Eventually children were released from school in the heat of the shooting. They joined the protesting crowd, and some also threw stones. A child was hit on the head by a rubber bullet but he appeared uninjured and continued to participate in the protest.

A community leader of Leonsdale, Hamish Bradley Arries, points to the Constitution.

Hamish Bradley Arries, a leader of the protesting community, said, “What is happening here is overdue. City of Cape Town is disappointing our people dismally with regarding to housing. Housing is of paramount importance for any human being to exist. We need housing and if people do not get, they start fighting. According to section 26 of the Constitution we have a right to it.”

“People are protesting because in the morning they started to harass our people,” he said. He accused the police and City law enforcement of harassing people daily. “They say our people have no right to erect houses here. But we are indigenous people and we have a right to be here. They do not listen to us, so this is the way it goes unfortunately.”

We have asked for comment from Alderman JP Smith, Mayoral Committee member for the Safety and Security Directorate. The article will be updated when he responds.

Protesters threw stones at police.
And police shot rubber bullets at protesters.

All photos by Ashraf Hendricks.

TOPICS:  Government Housing Policing Violence

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