The removal of “vacant” illegal structures in Hangberg, led by police and the City’s law enforcement agencies, resulted in a violent protest.
A handful of residents clashed with police, in an exchange of rubber bullets and stones where two unfinished structures were being dismantled by City workers, escorted by police and law enforcement. Residents were injured in the heated exchange during which they were accused of throwing stones at police.
Peace and Mediation Forum spokesman, Warren Abrahams, said he knew little about the operation and was puzzled about why the City had chosen to carry it out in the middle of a storm.
“It is sad that they chose this wet and rainy day to come and demolish structures. None of the community leaders or residents knew that this would happen. That is all the information I received,” he said.
While the community had reacted out of pure “anger and frustration”, Mr Abrahams said he could not agree with their “lawless behaviour”.
“The community is reacting as we always have been out of anger and frustration, but this was unwarranted as there are better ways to deal with this situation and to get to the bottom of the demolishing,” he said.
Community activist Roscoe Jacobs accused the City of Cape Town of failing to comply with the national lockdown regulations by carrying out this operation.
“There is a huge difference between what is being said and what is being done. The City must be taken to task as this is against the High Court Order that was set out (Peace Accord Agreement),” Mr Jacobs said.
The City on the other hand was adamant that its had acted in the correct manner by tearing down two half built structures, therefore making it a demolition, rather than an eviction.
“Occupied would have required eviction orders which wouldn’t be granted during lockdown level 3, and for which we would have had to make alternative accomodation etc,” ward councillor Roberto Quintas said.
He added that the “unoccupied” and “incomplete” structures fell outside the Hangberg Improvement Development Area (HIDA) .
“This operation has been requested for an ongoing basis over a period of months by the residents of Hangberg who have been pleading that law enforcement agencies halt the illegal land invasions affecting their community,” Mr Quintas said.
Residents however, were angry and criticised the City’s actions.
Ravona Diederiks said while residents were asking for better monitoring of the illegal structures being erected in Hangberg, she believed the City had “got its timing wrong”.
“But to come and tear it down during lockdown? In a time where there are people looking for places to sleep, places to social distance. Coming with such force to tear down two structures? This doesn’t make sense, I hear why the City are doing it, but I think the way they did it is wrong,” she said.