Public order police shot a young boy at point blank range in the mouth while dispersing a protest at Hout Bay harbour on Tuesday afternoon. The boy was hiding beneath an upturned wooden table behind a line of burning debris strewn by residents of Hangberg infuriated by looming fishing quota cuts.
The protest was sparked by an announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) last week that rock lobster quotas would shrink further this season. The residents also vented at systemic service delivery problems and a breakdown in communication between their community and the City of Cape Town.
“Why do we have to do this to be heard?” asked Zaida Arendse, 38, who lost her job when a fishing factory closed in the harbour in 2010. Her husband had been unsuccessful in a recent quota application that had cost R400 and taken hours, Arendse said.
On Monday, several Hout Bay fisher representatives joined a delegation at DAFF offices in Cape Town. When their requests to meet with Minister Senzeni Zokwana were denied — Zokwana is currently in China — they returned to Hangberg and brewed plans for a demonstration, community leaders said.
The protest began with several dozen residents standing behind a barricade of burning Port Jackson bushes gathered from the adjacent dunes. A dreadlocked fisherman who declined to be named yelled grievances at police beyond the flames. “We watch tourists spend millions in this harbour but nothing comes to us,” he shouted. “This land belongs to our people but we cannot fish.”
The fire grew, fuelled with petrol and rubber tires, as more residents streamed downhill from Hangberg. Within an hour there were more than 200 people in the road, separated from the police by a curtain of thick smoke.
With no exit from the harbour, motorists drove from the Mariner’s Wharf parking lot onto the beach. At least one vehicle got stuck in the sand.
Residents helped evacuate more than 150 stranded tourists, walking them down the beach. A breakaway group of protesters had earlier attempted to rob two tourists outside their busses. They attempted to snatch cameras and threw a woman wearing a headscarf to the ground.
Protest leaders quickly denounced the violence, calling for order. “We don’t hurt anybody. They are here to witness our struggle,” one man said.
Old tensions over housing, dating back to attempts by the City of Cape Town to evict shack dwellers in 2010, rose once more as protesters loudly denounced the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Forum (PMF), the controversial body mandated to negotiate with the city.
After protesters blocked the same road last month a new delegation of leaders, not affiliated with the PMF, reportedly met with city officials, but a community meeting last week disintegrated, said a Hangberg representative who declined to be named.
“That’s what led to this,” he said, gesturing towards the angry crowd.
A new upmarket housing development on the slopes opposite Hangberg has added to resentment among community members who continue to face chronic housing shortages. Residents say that the estate, to be built behind a newly constructed fence that splits the mountainside above the small fishing harbour, contravenes a 2011 peace accord drafted when the PMF formed.
“There was supposed to be no development until we received low-cost housing,” said Darrel September, a harbour security guard from Hangberg who helped evacuate a group of tourists.
Police moved on the protest after men tossed wooden tables from Mariner’s Wharf onto the flames. A last-ditch attempt to negotiate by protest leaders failed. “You have two minutes to clear,” one of the policemen warned. “On my signal,” he said to his men.
They advanced in front of a water cannon, firing rubber bullets and lobbing stun grenades. The protesters scattered onto the beach and towards the harbour. Fifteen meters behind the barricade a wooden table lay tilted at an angle. Three people — the young boy and two women — crouched beneath it. A policeman fired at least three times at them from less than two meters away. People watching from the dunes beside the road screamed at the officer to stop.
The boy looked younger than ten. He staggered to the pavement and fell to his knees, spitting thick mouthfuls of blood. He appeared to have been shot directly in the mouth. The police did not stop but continued walking towards the harbour, pursuing the protesters. Onlookers hung back, perhaps afraid of being shot, but eventually ran to the boy’s aid. More than five minutes passed before a policeman loaded him into the back of his vehicle and drove him away for treatment. He spat blood and sobbed, bewildered, occasionally reaching into his mouth, the entire time.
Why is it that the protesters always have to "burn & destroy" ?
It is so "counter-productive" - causes more heartache.
Hout Bay really needs to encourage Tourism for "all" its residents. The message is getting out .. "don't send your tourists to Hout Bay" .. 80% of the residents love our village and want it to be "seen" by everyone who visits.
All tiers of government - local, provincial and national - should hang their heads in shame regarding the treatment of Hangberg residents. Their livelihoods and well being - stemming from poor housing and other associated services - have been decimated by greed that has bred a culture of a lack of care and interest.
The mountains of Hout Bay are now scarred with new developments. How can housing estates for the ultra-rich be allowed when residents of Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg live in squalor and their lives are threatened because they live in an environment that is not safe, secure and healthy? Why are the developers not compelled to give a proportion of their land to the poor when permission to build is granted? And who pays for the services given to these new housing estates? Us taxpayers. Surely the money should be diverted to providing the poor so that they can have adequate housing and services.
The city's development agenda of densification without taking heed of the well being, housing and service needs of the poor is untenable. The City's agenda can only be sustainable if it takes the concerns of all residents into account and treats all fairly and in a transparent way.
The people of Hangberg are really ligimate residents of Hout Bay. Many of them are the decendents of farm workers when Hout Bay was made up of dairy, pig and other farms. Traditionally they gravitated to being fishermen and supported their families. The women of Hangberg have worked by adding value to the fish, cleaning and packing them.
Now fishing is a "dirty" business. Applying for a license requires a high level of skill. Give the people of Hangberg all the crayfish licenses. Give the public recreational licenses. Do not issue licenses to anyone else. The fishermen will need financial help to buy or rent boats and maintain them. This could be achieved on a business basis where they pay back their loans on the basis of their catches.
Many jobs will be created. As family income increases the community as a whole will benefit. Good quality houses should be built on a buy and rental basis. If other people in Hout Bay receive land then so should Hangberg. Just because it is mountainside does not mean it can't be built on. Look at places like Santorini in Greece where houses are literally built into the mountainside and has become a major tourist attraction.
Hangberg should be full of quaint seafood eateries again assisting job creation. Drugs and gangs need to be stamped out as other options to make money become accessible to the residents.
The people who run the boats currently are probably educated sufficiently to reinvent themselves career wise. They have been on the crest of the wave for too long. Hand the rightful fishermen the licenses.
The social disparities that result in such violent behavior cannot be wished away. That a 14 year old was shot point blank is an issue that muddies the water and diverts the dialogue. The SAPS should invoke the doctrine of minimum force at all times. By causing this incident, opportunistic individuals are gaining mileage and sowing more dissent.
The shooter should be held accountable as this was excessive force, as should any person who willfully destroys public or private property.
The real issue is a scenario where long time subsistence workers have been marginalized by poor prospects and a dysfunctional DAFF and diminishing fishing and associated opportunities. Poaching has flourished and gangsters have thrived thus impoverishing the community with drugs and other social ills. The establishment of an informal settlement by outsiders desperate for work and shelter has further torn the delicate social fabric.
Surely the people who were in the valley for generations are worthy of assistance before the Johnny come Lately's that are crowding a place that has limited resources?
Of course this argument will be construed as Apartheid speak, and it is a valid point, however how else will the issue be solved? No amount of arguing can deny that these people have been there for many years, and have also borne the brunt of separatist policies. Does the village of Hout Bay have the means of sustaining 35,000 people without a carefully conceived and implemented plan? NO!
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