Protesters block roads in Dunoon with burning tyres and rubble

Anger over City of Cape Town demolishing and confiscating material of “unoccupied” shacks since Saturday

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Potsdam Road in Dunoon was blocked by protesting community members on Tuesday. Photos: Peter Luhanga

While the country observed Human Rights Day on Tuesday, about 300 protesters from informal settlements in Dunoon, Cape Town, blocked Potsdam Road and Malibongwe Drive by strewing litter and stones and burning tyres.

They were protesting against the City of Cape Town’s crackdown on “unoccupied” shacks in the community. At least nine shacks have been demolished since 18 March, according to residents.

By lunchtime, about 20 law enforcement vehicles with heavily armed officers were seen monitoring the scene. Chaos erupted while community leaders were addressing protesters after a stone was hurled at the officers. Police responded by firing teargas and rubber bullets.

Police spokesperson Frederick Van Wyk confirmed that no arrests were made.

“The issue was about unoccupied informal structures that were broken down by the Informal Settlement Management appointed by the City of Cape Town. Law Enforcement provided protection during the operation,” said Van Wyk.

The community has been up in arms that shacks along Malibongwe and Potsdam are being demolished.

One protester, Esethu Qayiso, said she moved to the settlement named Newlands during the 2020 lockdown because she could no longer afford to pay rent as a backyarder in Dunoon.

Stones and litter were strewn across Potsdam Road during the protest.

Qayiso and many others who have been occupying the area for about three years, do not have basic municipal services such as toilets, water, and electricity. “We’re human beings and we demand our rights. Our kids get struck by cars when they cross the road to relieve themselves in the bushes,” said Qayiso.

She said that people were upset because law enforcement demolished the shacks at the weekend, they also confiscated the material.

“It costs R4,000 to build a one-room shack, excluding labour and cement,” she said.

Sinethemba Matomela, a community activist and South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO) branch chairperson, said the City started demolishing shacks in Newlands and Ezihagwini on 18 March and continued operations this week.

On Wednesday, Matomela told GroundUp that community leaders had set up a meeting with the Blaauwberg subcouncil.

Subcouncil Manager Roxanne Moses said, “We need to find out what operation was launched. I emailed our law enforcement inspector and I’m awaiting feedback.”

City of Cape Town Law Enforcement spokesperson, Wayne Dyason, said Law Enforcement officers on 21 March, provided protection to the Anti-Land Invasion Unit staff when they demolished an illegal structure.

Regarding lack of basic municipal services, the City said it is currently not able to assist people living at informal settlements formed since 2020 as these are “unplanned” and existing settlements will be prioritised with its limited available resources. The City added that it is restricted from providing services on privately-owned land or without the permission of the owner.

Update on 2023-03-23 13:05

This article was updated to reflect the City of Cape Town's response.

TOPICS:  Housing

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