Queries on land arrests
THE ongoing saga of land occupation in Ezibeleni took a turn for the worse on Monday as residents queried why police were arresting them while a related court case was pending.
The Rep reported (“Defiant”, July 28) that residents had started building shacks on a section of land, known as the Highway informal settlement, despite a warning from the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality that persons found guilty of such an offence would be removed and arrested.
EMLM indicated it was trying to find a legal way for people to get access to land.
Highway Committee secretary Khanyiso Hoho said he was shocked by the actions of the Ezibeleni SAPS.
“The police arrested people here on August 28, which is the same day that we were served an interim court order by the sheriff of the court, notifying us of the court interdict case that we have to attend in the High Court in Grahamstown on September 15.”
He said the interim court order was not an eviction letter.
“The police arrived in the evening and arrested everyone, including mothers. We could not contact any offices for legal assistance because they are closed at night.”
He said they had asked the station commander about the interim court order and the impact of a clause two 1(b) – apparently the base for the arrests – which the police could allegedly not explain.
“I don’t know what kind of a democratic republic do we live in that someone can just say I will arrest you with no explanation why . . .”
The Rep reporter on Monday found irate community members at the Ezibeleni police station following their arrests.
They were released less than an hour later. Speaking after their release, Hoho again slammed the police, saying there had been no explanation, while two shots had been fired and a smoke grenade thrown.
He said residents had run away and did not provoke the police.
“It is Women’s Month yet they manhandled us. There was a woman with an infant and there was a nine-month pregnant woman. Who are the police really serving and protecting, because they do not even know why they are arresting us? We have a date for our case, so why are they arresting us when there is no eviction letter on our interim court order?”
EFF Regional Interim Leadership Core (RILC) representative Xhanti Kanti said he had questioned the police about the arrests while coordinator Lindani Dlokolo said, “We joined the cause of the people of Highway because land distribution is one of the pillars in our policies.”
A heavily pregnant Fundiswa Memke said she had almost fallen after police had thrown the smoke grenade and that she was experiencing pain in her lower abdomen this week.
Hoho said although the people who were occupying the land belonged to different parties, the high cost of legal services and the fact that EMLM had not consulted them, had prompted them to ask the EFF for aid. He said about 8000 people wanted land, but that EMLM had “forgotten that they are suppose to serve us the people. We put them in power, now they are using that power to take us to the High Court. They forget that they will come to us not long from now wanting our votes.”
The police had not commented at the time of going to press.
EMLM Gcobani Msindwana said the municipality had an interim court order in place which allowed the police to arrest and evict people from occupying the land and/or further building on the land.
On the release of the order, it was then up to the police to effect.
HERE TO STAY: Residents continue to build shacks on a piece of land in Ezibeleni