Residents in stand-off with Red Ants over land invasion near Lavender Hill
By Shakirah Thebus 9m ago
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Cape Town – The City’s eviction unit, the Red Ants, had people in Rondevlei informal settlement near Lavender Hill running for cover as they apparently fired flashbangs from a shotgun (similar to stun grenades) to try to evict them from vacant land in the area.
Residents said they were still treating wounds from the first shots fired on January 16, with the most recent having occurred at the weekend.
The private security company had been called in to rid the area of illegal land invaders on the City-owned tract of land, with around 54 structures dismantled and removed.
Daniel John Benjamin, 31, said because the area was also used as a playground, he came to check if the children were okay once they heard law enforcement was on site.
“I went to go look and round about halfway, so they (law enforcement) pulled up, jumped out with their shields, fully armed and there was no sense of talking. They didn't come with any warning or nothing, it was straight pushing, shoving people,” said Benjamin.
“We just heard shots went off. I was still talking to this one officer so he said ‘I am just here to do my job’, I told him I’m not here for this, I am looking for my child. He is 6 years old.”
An emotional Benjamin said they shot at his girlfriend, sister and himself, deliberately aiming at his private parts.
Most of the homes located across the field were filled to the brim, prompting some to erect their own structures on the mostly vacant field. “There are already three to four families in one house,” said Benjamin.
“Everybody is really traumatised about what happens here and the thing is, no matter how hard we fight, we always get pushed back,” said Ashley Jones, 30. He said the ward councillor had only visited the site once amid all the violence.
Benjamin said he was awoken by shots during the early hours of Friday. “I heard a shot, but a loud shot so I jumped out of bed when I came out of my room, my grandchildren was standing in the dark with big eyes, they were traumatised by the shots and it wasn't even one shot, it was five to 10 shots that they shot through my room, over my roof, through the yards.”
Firdous Adams, 24, who is four months pregnant, said her mother shielded her and was shot at five times last month. “She was standing in front of me, so all of that bullets was supposed to be in my belly.”
Her mother suffered internal bleeding and was still recovering.
Around 54 families were left affected by the removal of structures, with a handful still remaining. A large, cramped tent shelters around 20 people. Residents said that some had gone to money lenders to buy material to put up a structure, now removed.
The City said: “This invasion site was an informal settlement and the City previously assisted by moving the people to a formal housing area. They were thus previously helped.
“It is believed the same group of people are trying to reoccupy this piece of land, which is an unlawful act. The City is acting to prevent the unlawful occupation of land. On Friday and Saturday the security personnel came under heavy attack with petrol bombs and live fire.
“They responded with flashbangs, which were fired from a shotgun (similar to stun grenades). Public order police (SAPS) were on site to assist; a case of attempted murder has been opened.”