“I was standing here yesterday, watching this happen. I didn’t understand what it was because it was so strange. Some of my friends lived there, but now after the shacks were broken down I haven’t seen them.”
So said Akhona* who stood with me observing the last of hundreds of shacks being broken down in Nomzano informal settlement in Lwandle, Strand, by the South African Roads Agency Limited (Sanral) with a heavy police presence in the area.
Only moments before my conversation with Akhona*, I was taking refuge behind an untouched shack with another journalist and his photographer. A resident stood with us, chuckling, as rocks were flung from a few streets away inside main Lwandle. While the constant fall of rain pooled around us police dressed in riot gear continued firing rubber bullets while other residents ran for shelter from the impending danger on both sides.
Earlier in the year, Sanral was granted an order to evict shack dwellers from the property owned by the roads agency. Although there is now a back and forth between Sanral and the provincial government, on the ground, journalists, photographers and others were met with a grim sight as they pulled up into the small close separating Nomzano from Lwandle proper: several houses already broken down, imposing police officers in padded riot suits holding heavy single barrel shotguns, wary of any disturbance, one such officer took it upon himself to act as warden to the property, preventing me from walking through even after I had already taken a solo tour of the property photographing.
From the streets cordoned off by smoky logs whose fires had been put out recently by the rain and from another blocked by the black dust remains of burnt tyres, came a hail of rocks and chaos ensued. But an hour later things had calmed down considerably and a woman named Thembi* remarked that they did not expect to be evicted.
According to her, she was never served an eviction notice, though Vusi Mona of Sanral claims eviction notices had been relayed to the residents timeously. By Tuesday afternoon the City of Cape Town had made arrangements to house the shack dwellers in temporary spaces for a week until they are able to find other accommodation. VOC (Andriques Che Petersen)