Philippi eviction: Sheriff contradicts City’s JP Smith
The City of Cape Town’s version of the evictions in Philippi East on 11 August has been contradicted by police and the SA Board of Sheriffs. The Board denies that any of its officials were involved in dozens of shack demolitions off Symphony Way in Philippi. The evictions were carried out by the City’s Law Enforcement, police say.
The eviction of dozens of shack-dwellers came in response to a flash land occupation which started late last week. On Tuesday, 12 August, in the absence of police and Law Enforcement, the sound of hammering continued to fill the air as more shacks were put up.
JP Smith, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, on Monday portrayed the sheriff and the police as the main role players in the evictions. He relegated the involvement of City Law Enforcement to that of a supportive role. In an emailed response to a request for comment from GroundUp (see full text below) Smith said the police had requested “support” from City law enforcement agencies to assist the Sheriff of the Court in carrying out court orders.
But police spokesman Captain FC van Wyk said that police had provided support to Law Enforcement, and not the other way around.
The police said that it was City Law Enforcement officials, and not the Sheriff, who demolished 100 shacks at the Marikana informal settlement on Sunday.
“On Monday, people started to build shacks again,” said Van Wyk. “Law Enforcement officials came again (on Monday) to demolish shacks that were empty and those (which) were half built. People threw stones at police. Police threw stun grenades to disperse the crowd.”
Hishaam Mohamed, regional head for the Department of Justice and a member of the SA Board of Sheriffs, confirmed that the local court sheriff had nothing to do with the evictions.
He said the sheriff for the Philippi area had served a notice of eviction last week Friday, giving the residents 30 days to vacate the site. “That was the only involvement of said sheriff,” said Mohamed.
Smith also said that the land occupation was part of a “concerted effort… to promote lawlessness and to make the city ungovernable”. Citing “reports on the ground,” he blamed the ANC aligned Ses’khona’s People’s Movement for instigating the occupation.
Marikana resident Themba Nothununu, who has lived there since April last year and has been liaising with the new occupiers, challenged Smith’s claims of political agendas and organisers behind the occupation.
“This is the same old lie from the City,” he said. “This is the community taking matters in their own hands. They are backyarders from Lower Crossroads, Khayelitsha and Philippi East… There is no money for rent, so when people hear there is an opportunity and a space to put a shack of their own, they come and do so. It is simple survival, not cheap politics.”
Newly arrived occupiers, half a dozen of whom were quizzed by GroundUp, confirmed that the unaffordability of rent as backyard dwellers was the primary reason for people attempting to settle on the empty plot.
“We are suffering,” said Mzamo Ndlazulwana, 28, from the ruins of a shack which had been pulled down by Law Enforcement.
“My brother and I came from Eastern Cape to look for work because we were desperate. I have been here for a month with no income. Now I cannot pay rent anymore. That is why I am here.”
Andile Lili, of Ses’khona, denied involvement or inside knowledge of the occupation.
“The City always blame Ses’khona instead of acknowledging the real issues affecting Cape Town’s poor,” he said.
GroundUp has asked the City to clarify its involvement in the evictions and to identify the sources of “reports on the ground” which claim Ses’khona orchestrated the invasion. The City has promised to respond and the response will be published in a later article.
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