A haze of smoke covered Eersterust on Wednesday morning when angered residents burned tyres and clashed with police, after their shacks were demolished during an eviction.
Hundreds of residents were left stranded and destitute when about 100 shacks were destroyed by Tshwane metro police and the South African Police Service (SAPS). Their belongings were also confiscated.
According to some of the residents, they were given permission by the landowner to occupy the vacant land. After getting said permission, the residents said they immediately erected shacks on Tuesday. Others told The Citizen they even took out loans to buy material to build the shacks.
But their new homes were demolished on Tuesday morning, leading to chaos and violence between the residents and police.
The enraged residents pelted rocks and bottles at the police officers who then retaliated by shooting rubber bullets at the protestors.
One of the residents, Harbert Hartell, was shot in the face. Speaking with a bloody jaw and swollen cheek, he said the protest would have been peaceful had they been given a chance to explain themselves to the police.
“We have been doing this protest very peacefully. Look at me. Look how I got shot. When they shot me, I asked them why but they kept on shooting at us. If the police had come to us and spoken to us, we would have explained to them,” he said.
Chanting “ons soek huise” [we want houses], most of the protestors claim they had long applied for housing but received no help from the government.
Janette Abrahams, a single mother of four, said she was disappointed at being evicted as she was happy to have found a place to settle with her family.
“If [government] can accommodate us and give us a stable place for our children to stay, this thing will never happen… I’ve been on a waiting list for more than 13 years, waiting for an RDP house, which I’ve never seen. Every time we ask for land, they tell us it’s for white people or owned by someone else. But the owner never comes forward to say this is their land.”
But the vacant land was actually owned by the City of Tshwane who were granted a court order to evict the occupants, TMPD spokesperson Senior Superintendent Isaac Mahamba said.
“The land in question belongs to the City of Tshwane and there were structures that were erected illegally. The City went to court to obtain a court order to demolish those illegal structures and it was granted. Hence TMPD accompanied the service provider to demolish the unoccupied illegal structures,” he said.
TMPD would continue to monitor the situation, Mahamba said.