A newly rebuilt informal structure, built by neighbours of Bulelani Qolani – who was dragged naked from his shack as it was demolished earlier this week – is likely to be demolished again.
This after social media posts showed a conversation between City of Cape Town staff, in which a housing official responded that the shack will have to be demolished, “with or without a naked man”. Included in the conversation were City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee members JP Smith and Malusi Booi.
During the operation on Wednesday, law enforcement officers tore down Qolani’s home while he was in it. This after a protracted struggle between Qolani and the officers, who kept tackling him as he ran from them with no clothes on.
A screengrab of an exchange on a WhatsApp group, in which Smith shared a News24 journalist’s tweet that Qolani’s neighbours had rebuilt his shack, has been circulating on social media.
A person named Anton responded: “Illegal structure then… Needs to be demolished with or without a naked man”. To this, Booi replied: “Yes.”
Smith said he frequently shares complaints received from community members – in areas such as Hangberg, Langa, Gugulethu, and Khayelitsha – as well as relevant newsworthy items, in WhatsApp groups used by operational departments within the City of Cape Town.
“The housing officials [Anton’s] remarks were insensitive, and that will be taken up with him,” Smith said.
He added that he was not guilty of any wrongdoing and highlighted that leaking information from internal chat groups could include details of complainants and could endanger them.
Booi said the City had “strongly condemned the manner in which the police officers handled the situation” when Qolani was removed.
“They should have allowed him to dress before arresting or removing him,” he said.
Booi said Qolani’s structure is not one of 49 permitted to be on the site, and that the City will continue to remove illegal structures there.
The site has been earmarked for an R162 million water pipeline that will bolster services to Khayelitsha, the City said in a statement.
The City is currently installing a 6.3km pipeline from Faure to Khayelitsha along Baden Powell Drive, and land occupations are halting this project, it said.
The pipeline is expected to improve basic services to 11 000 Enkanini residents as well as water and sewerage supply to the whole of Khayelitsha.
Booi said a High Court order allows the City to remove any new illegally erected structures on this site. The 49 structures are to remain on the site temporarily, pending the matter coming before court.
Mayor Dan Plato issued an apology to Qolani on Thursday morning and admitted the man’s dignity was impaired by the incident.
However, the City has since stated that video footage filmed by law enforcement officials shows Qolani was “initially clothed at the time of the operation” and that he “purposefully undressed in an attempt to prevent the anti-land invasion operation from taking place”.
An independent investigation is underway.