There was shock and outrage on Wednesday after City of Cape Town law enforcement officers aggressively pulled a naked man from his shack to evict him. The man was apparently bathing in his shack in Enthembeni informal settlement, close to Empolweni in Khayelitsha when the officers arrived. In video footage doing the rounds on social media, the naked man is seen being physically manhandled and sprayed with pepper spray by the officers. The man attempts to run back to his shack to cover himself but is continuously pinned down by officers. When he eventually gets inside the shack, officials start dismantling the structure. According to reports, officials demolished four dwellings despite a moratorium on evictions during the lockdown.
Xolani Sotashe, leader of the ANC in the City of Cape Town, called the action “barbaric and inhumane”.
“He told me he was having a bath in preparation to go to work. He asked to be allowed to get dressed. They wouldn’t listen to him and sprayed him with pepper spray on his private parts and in his eyes. He could not get their names because they did not wear name tags,” said Sotashe.
“They acted illegally because they did not have a court or a warrant. This man is shattered. We condemn this inhumane and barbaric action.”
In response, the City said it is in the process of suspending four staff members involved in the incident pending the outcome of an investigation.
“We are saddened by the conduct depicted on the video footage, and we do not condone any forceful and dehumanising conduct by our staff members,” said the City’s Executive Director for Safety and Security, Richard Bosman.
“The City takes these allegations very seriously, and while our staff are subjected to very challenging circumstances while carrying out anti-land invasion operations, which are to protect land earmarked for housing opportunities and other services, we will not condone violence of any nature by law enforcement staff. I have asked for the facts to be gathered as a matter of urgency and that the investigation is concluded without delay.”
He added that the land in question belongs to the City and officials have conducted various operations to prevent illegal land occupation. After the removal of illegally built structures, new attempts are made to invade again on a daily basis.
“The land is earmarked for the installation of services to serve the broader community in the area. There is an interdict in place as well as a recent court order which allows only 49 households to temporarily remain on the land until after the lockdown. The City must also maintain this recent court order, which the community is aware of,” said Bosman.
Angry housing activists protested outside Mayco Member for Human Settlement’s Malusi Booi’s house last night to demand answers regarding who ordered yesterday’s evictions. Activist Ndifuna Ukwazi group are demanding the immediate suspension of all the law enforcement officials involved and for an urgent investigation. They want all confiscated material to be returned to the owners. They are also demanding a commitment from Councillor Booi to halt all evictions during the period of lockdown.
“We visited Malusi Booi who failed to accept our demands as he claimed he was not at his house. Yet he claimed that the community whose homes were demolished in the most inhuman manner were invading his privacy. What of the privacy of the gentleman forced out of his home naked. What of the people that were left to sleep outside,” said Buhle Booi from Ndifuna Ukwazi.
Meanwhile, the Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu said she will be taking the City to court, as evictions during the Covid19 lockdown remain prohibited. Sisulu, however, acknowledged the ongoing court case, which makes provision for 49 families to legally occupy the land.
Leader of the ANC in the City of Cape Town, Xolani Sotashe says the party will be assisting the man, whose eyes and private parts were sprayed with pepper spray, in laying a formal charge. The community of Makhaza will also be hosting a march over the inhumane treatment of the eMpolweni community.