Fury fuels Hangberg protest

A piece of heavy machinery was set on fire on Thursday after the uprising began again. Picture: PETER MICHAELS

For some Hangberg residents, the manner in which this week’s protest unfolded dredged up painful memories of the 2010 riots.

Myriad reasons have been cited for the uprising, including dissatisfaction over the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries’ (DAFF) decision to cut fishing rights and the growing impatience of the community over housing and the provision of services.

A peace deal was reached with the community on Wednesday.

Ministers of housing and fishing agreed to meet with the community on Thursday.

Last week, DAFF cut the allocation of West Coast Rock Lobster to the small-scale fishing sector by 53%, while the near shore fishing allocation was cut by about 50%.

According to Ikram “Lamie” Halim, of the Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust, the allocation of 110kg per fisher would be reduced to 50kg.

“Fishers would then receive R160 per kilogram, but you need to remember that R60 goes to the boat owner. So a fisher’s entire income for the year would be about R5 000, which no one can live on.”

On Monday this week, the Hout Bay Fishers Community Trust, along with nine other fishing groups, handed a memorandum to DAFF representatives at the department’s offices in Cape Town. They demanded a meeting with Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana, as well as the immediate suspension of the West Coast Rock Lobster trap system and shifting offshore allocations from “big” companies to near-shore entities.

They also called for DAFF to revisit the verification and identification of fishers, as the current system was deemed “corrupt”.

“After handing over the memorandum, we had a meeting with our fishers. A few suggestions were put on the table. The first was that we take all the fish from the big companies. The second suggestion was that fishers should go to work in areas where there was an abundance of West Coast Rock Lobster. A third suggestion was that the fishers take action in the form of protest,” Mr Halim said.

He mentioned to the fishers that he had given the minister a week to respond to their demands, and that he had been assured by a DAFF representative that she would be in touch with him by Wednesday.

However, there was a sense in the meeting that the fishers wanted to take protest action because they were “fed up” with DAFF.

On Tuesday morning, Mr Halim received a call from the police that there was a protest on Harbour Road, and he was asked to address the fishers. He said he was uncertain who had called for the protest action.

“When I went down there, the police told me they were trying to get hold of the minister, but they received no response.”

Fishers burnt materials, including wooden benches from Mariner’s Wharf, on Harbour Road, and during the stand-off, a 14-year-old boy was allegedly shot with a rubber bullet, according to Hout Bay police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Tanya Lesch.

Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum vice-chairman Greg Louw was on the scene when the boy was shot.

“The protesters were about to sit down on the road, when the police started firing rubber bullets. Two ladies ran to hide behind a bench in the road. The boy, who had been standing on the side of the road, then also ran behind the bench,” he said.

“Two policemen then opened fire, and the boy was hit in the mouth and on his side. I went over to him. I eventually took him to the fire station for treatment. His tongue was split and he sustained a fractured ribcage.”

The boy had to be accompanied to hospital by an adult, and eventually Mr Louw managed to track down his uncle. He was later taken to Groote Schuur Hospital.

Police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk urged the guardian or parents of the boy to come forward to open a criminal complaint to be investigated.

In the past month, tensions have reached fever-pitch over housing and grievances over the Hangberg leadership. Various meetings have been held with City officials in attempt to gain clarity on the housing and land issue.

On Monday August 28, the City was given 21 days to plot the way forward (“Hangberg housing tussle,” Sentinel, September 8). However, residents “fed up” with waiting for answers joined those protesting against DAFF allocations.

The protest escalated quickly, as protesters, including people angered over ongoing housing and land issues in Hangberg, moved to Mariner’s Wharf, smashing store windows as they moved back towards Hangberg.

A tense stand-off ensued between protesters and the Public Order Policing unit, as rocks, flares and petrol bombs were met with stun grenades and rubber bullets.

On Tuesday night, fires were started and windows were broken at the Bay Harbour Market and another stand-off ensued between protesters and police.

Mr Halim lost an eye in the 2010 riots, during which members of the Hangberg community clashed violently with Metro police over the City of Cape Town’s removal of illegal structures.

“What happened in 2010 is still fresh in my mind. It’s still fresh in the minds of our kids. There was no compensation, or even a sorry for what happened in 2010. The anger that is being shown in this protest is the result of those scars. Trauma was experienced.”

Hangberg resident Angelo Joseph agreed, saying the 2010 riots continued to play in the minds of youngsters.

“Some of these kids would have been 10 years old in 2010. They are now 17 years old, and many of them were the front-runners on Tuesday. When they see police shooting, they just erupt,” he said.

However, Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum chairman Jan Lewis was loathe to make a comparison between 2010 and the events of Tuesday.

“In 2010, it was a different story. The entire community stood together against what the police were doing.

“On Tuesday, you had the fishers protesting against the cuts by the department under the interim relief policy, who were then joined by groups with their own agenda,” he said.

“We saw a lot of criminal activity. In 2010, we stood as one, but most members of the community did not agree with people damaging property and other criminal activity.”