Squatters, cops clash during Delft evictions

Seven people were injured on Tuesday when riot-squad officers fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at squatters resisting eviction from a housing project in Delft near Cape Town, South African police said.


The violence erupted as several hundred squatters tried to prevent contractors from loading their scant belongings on to removal trucks after the high court had dismissed their appeal on Monday against an eviction order.


The operation to remove the 1 600-odd residents started about 6am, said police Superintendent Andre Traut, and by 11am residents were throwing stones at police and staff of the private security firm carrying out the court order.


“We had to use rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades to disperse the crowd,” Traut said.


“We know of seven people who were slightly injured, one of whom was a child. All were treated at the scene and did not need to be hospitalised.”


A residents’ spokesperson, Mncedisi Twalo, had claimed that seven people, three of them children, had to be taken to hospital.


Access to housing, a key focus of the African National Congress government, remains a major concern in South Africa 14 years after the end of apartheid.


The City of Cape Town, like most others, still has massive squatter camps in spite of the government’s stated goal of eliminating shantytowns by 2014.


The group being evicted from Delft is occupying houses meant for residents of another settlement being cleared to make way for a government housing project.


“I don’t know where I am going to sleep, me and my four kids. I don’t know,” Delft evictee Lola Wentzel said.


“We were thrown out like dogs.
They are dumping us into the veld and they tell us we must go to [former president Nelson] Mandela, he will give us houses,” added Wentzel, who said she had been on a government housing list for the past 12 years.


While the violence had subsided by the late afternoon, a police helicopter could be seen hovering overhead as riot police escorted the removal personnel.


Residents are planning to file a further appeal against the eviction at the Supreme Court of Appeal.—AFP

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