South Africa: Cape Town Cops Assault Land Occupier

4 September 2019

A shackdweller who had occupied land next to Enkanini informal settlement, Khayelitsha was assaulted by law enforcement officers on Sunday.

GroundUp saw a City of Cape Town law enforcement officer slap Siya Nzuza in the face and head-butt him. Afterwards other officers joined him and dragged Nzuza to a van parked beside Baden Powell Drive. Officers were demolishing illegally erected shacks.

Earlier, officers had told the residents to stay off the land, but Nzuza walked onto the land to collect his tools.

Another eyewitness, Zukisani Meyiwa, who was closer to the incident, said Nzuza had angered the officers when he collected the hammer and spades lying beside his demolished shack.

"One official angrily asked what he was doing, and he said he was collecting his tools," Meyiwa said. "The officer hit him with a gun on the hand holding the tools and grabbed them before putting them in the van. Another officer slapped him thrice in the face and head-butted him. A third one drew a knife on him," he said.

Musa Gwebani, Head of Advocacy and Organising for the Social Justice Coalition, said the land occupiers had reported the incident to her. She said this was one of several complaints against law enforcement officers the organisation had recently received.

"It seems the evictions have become quite violent. All the incidents involve indiscriminate rubber bullet shootings and no dialogue," she said.

Councillor Malusi Booi, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Human Settlements, said Nzuza should lay a charge of assault against the officers. "The City Safety and Security Cluster condemn all forms of violence. No official has the right to attack or assault any person." He said the City would investigate the incident.

Booi said the City had obtained an interim court order blocking the land occupation.

"Some have occupied the land because they have lost their jobs," said land occupier Lelethu Khantolo. He said he could not understand why the officers had demolished the shacks while there were already other shacks on the land. "We are not starting off a new informal settlement," said Khantolo.

Yakhanani Mthi said after their shacks were destroyed, "we rebuilt them and put in furniture overnight so that the officials can see that they were occupied and furnished when they return."

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