Cape Town — The homes of 12 Tafelsig backyarder families were demolished by the city's Anti-Land Invasion unit on Friday, in a fierce face-off that left several people injured, including a woman who was seven months pregnant.
This came two days after the Cape High Court granted a postponement to allow backyarders sufficient time to get legal representation to appeal the city's application for an eviction order.
The 12 families, who were part of the group of 4000 backyarders who invaded city-owned land in Tafelsig three weeks ago, moved onto 75-year-old Sarah Smith's backyard last week after the Anti-Land Invasion unit demolished their homes which were erected on the field just opposite Smith's home.
The families said that the Anti-Land Invasion unit along with law enforcement and SAPS arrived late Friday afternoon, instructing them to take down their structures. At the time, mostly women and 18 children, including four babies, were present. A violent confrontation allegedly followed in which Christlen Dejager claims she had her leg broken after an Anti-Land Invasion unit member beat her.
"As I was taking my tent down, he kicked me and then beat me with a baton on my leg. He said 'fuck you' and 'Jou ma se ****' and smacked me in my face. I was hit again with a baton on my lower back. One of them had a gun and told me he was going to shoot me. Are we animals? We are human beings! This isn't right," she said.
Liesl Esau, who is seven months pregnant, said she was grabbed from her tent by an Anti-Land Invasion unit member and thrown onto the ground. "I was about to take my children from my tent when he came and grabbed me and threw me on the ground onto a big rock," she said.
Esau's stomach landed on the rock and she was subsequently rushed to the local hospital.
Backyarders said that all their belongings were taken, except their clothing. "They took everything. They knocked over pots of food," said Dejager.
The backyarders said that the police stood by and when they requested help from them, was told that they could not interfere. "What is the purpose of the police? They should be here to protect us. Are we not part of this society? They don't even treat pigs like this," said Christlen's husband Claude Dejager, who was at work when their home was demolished.
Seventy five year old Sarah Smith, who gave the families permission to stay in her backyard, said that the property belonged to her but was told by the unit that because her property was not enclosed, the families had to be evicted.
City of Cape Town media manager Kylie Hatton said no one was allowed to occupy land that is owned by the city and that if the backyarders believe that they are not on city-owned land, they would need to lay a complaint with the SAPS.
She said it was "highly unlikely" that it was not city owned land as the Anti-Land Invasion unit was "very cautious about the actions they take".
Hatton said if there were allegations of police brutality, the families should lay a complaint with the local police. "Police brutality is unacceptable and people must lay a charge. But it is difficult to investigate if people make general allegations. If there is no specific information, it is difficult to follow up," she said.
Several of the backyarders laid a complaint with the local police on Friday night. Many of those who were injured were being treated at the Mitchells Plain day hospital. The remaining ten families have decided to enclose Smith's property using any plastic and pieces of wood they can find. "We are not going to move," said Christlen Dejager.
The open field which the 4000 backyarders occupied a few weeks ago is currently protected by a court interdict which prevents the erection of structures and occupation of land. The city obtained the interdict from the Cape High Court on May 17, following two days of violent clashes between police and backyarders who had occupied the land.
Many of the 4000 backyarders who had been living on the open field are now seeking shelter in safe havens, and in the backyards and homes of families.