Solidarity: There is War in Cape Town

Sometime around 6 am on Monday the 20th, government forces acting on behalf of capital interests opened fire on the predominantly homeless population of people living in a ghetto on Gorachoqua Mountain; an ancient Khoisan area labelled ‘Hangberg’ by the colonialists, apartheid government, and the current democratically elected regime. The latter has claimed the mountain, which has recently become highly sought after real estate by the elite due to it enthralling view of the ocean and proximity to financial hubs, is private property.

Threats were made on Wednesday the 15th by Helene Zille , the Premier of the Western Cape, acting on behalf of the financial interests of the so-called owners of the mountain. In a gathering with community facilitators, she dictated that the shacks on Gorachoqua Mountain, made primarily with scraps of metal and other refuse, must be destroyed. Refusal to do so would result in forced expulsions from their homes. Furthermore, if the community did not kick down the people forced to creep up the mountain, she threatened to refuse a 4 Million Rand development fund meant for the Gorachoqua community where young sisters carrying heavy containers of water up and down the mountain multiple times is routine, and where basic privileges such as toilets, sanitation systems, warm clothing, and humane shelters are a distant reality. Community facilitators tasked with delivering the message, one of them being an elder from the community named Ras Naftali, citing the illegitimacy of the demand, refused to deliver the message to the community, telling Zille she must do so herself.

On Friday the 17th, Zille, forced to deliver the ultimatum to the slum dwellers, pushed further: if the shacks are not removed by Monday, they will be removed forcefully by government forces acting on behalf of capital interests.

Three days later, Monday the 20th, before the children could go to school, and on a day when most people were sleeping in the cold, foreign police squads numbering in the hundreds brought in from other cities, accompanied by armoured vehicles, began their volleys and encirclement of the ghetto. Before the squad opened fire, Ras Naftali was on his loud speaker, facing the forces, relaying a message of peace from the people: they asked for the police to stop their approach on their ghetto, and that they still wanted to talk. Before Naftali could finish his sentence, his loud speaker was shot out of his hand. Targeted sporadic firing touched everyone in sight, young and old. Many pregnant women recount being beaten. Tear gas, stun grenades, and electric-tasers were used on mothers of households and women staying behind in the shacks to look after the vulnerable children. One man, drinking his coffee on the road early in the morning, unaware like most in ghetto that morning, not knowing why there was violence in the community, was shot in the eye. He saw the bullet before it went through his eye. When vomiting from the pain, he noted that his vomit tasted of gunpowder. His toddler is currently staying in a near by ghetto as she is afraid to look at her father. Another brother by the name of Loly was shot 8 times throughout his body. The wounds are still open. Amongst other places, the police shot him in the penis. Government forces protecting the privately owned mountain tried to expel one brother from his shack and beat him in the back of the head with the end of a shotgun while he was cradling his baby. There are still shotgun shells in the 5 meter by 3 meter shack where his girlfriend and infant sleep. Writing over a week later, empty shotgun bullet shells riddle the grounds covered by human and animal refuse. Most men resisted in futile fashion by throwing rocks. Countless individuals, some as young as 14, were taken by the squad without any reason given, and subsequently beaten. Others recount being tortured for information regarding resistance before being released back into the mountain. Many more were arrested. Few received medical attention. None can afford to be in the hospital today.

Nine days after the first attack, reports of brutality are almost as common as bullet holes and limps within the population. Today, all anxiously await the next assault admits dozens of tin shacks razed to the ground which only days scantly roofed the heads of multiple families. Those still labelled for forced removal have nowhere to go.

The highest and most beautiful part of the Mountain, was branded by the colonialists as Sentinel. According to Khoisan spoken history dating back countless generation, the mountain represents the many faces of nature due to the impressions that can be seen on its sides. The ancient mountain, home to the identify of many, was attempted to be sold by a private firm a year ago. The protest of the poor finally but a hold on it; however, the mountain, which is home physically and spiritually to multiple generations, is still up for sale, and for a nominal price. As the mountain has unforgettable views of the ocean, it has become prime real estate for the extravagant, the sale of which is hampered by the homeless people forced to find shelter there. A mega-sale is being ironed out in an area where opulent waterfront construction is expanding. The people believe that large grants to the government are also in balance as the receiving of lavish international funding for what’s been labelled a park depends on the spotlessness of the mountain, while the thousands living there, suffering from disease, malnutrition, and violent poverty, are denied any respectful or responsible sort of funding or support towards the community’s growth. Children are of particular abundance given the poverty levels, being caught in the cross fire of government forces attempting to clear the path for seemingly a myriad financial interests. The media in South Africa, having a long and strong relationship with the rich who control the immense wealth of the southern African country, have been painting the war as a sporadic and malicious attack by the homeless people upon government forces, trying to divert attention from the attack while avoiding its narrative.

Today, massive police barricades comprised of personnel and vehicles cut off all roads down the mountain at midnight, imprisoning the battered and injured residents high in the mountain. A police state is being established during the day. Residents are witnessing a heavy influx of police in an area which has been neglected by the government for centuries.

Tonight, the people sleep in a warzone, knowing that the next attack will be more potent.

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4 Responses to Solidarity: There is War in Cape Town

  1. Pingback: The Poor People’s Alliance and other movements in support of the residents of Hangberg, Hout Bay | The Mandela Park Backyarders

  2. Pingback: The Poor People’s Alliance and other movements in support of the residents of Hangberg, Hout Bay « Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign

  3. Pingback: Solidaritet med Hangbergs indbyggere! Demo I Hout Bay 3. Oktober | Cogwheels behind the apparant

  4. Pingback: South Africa: Hundreds protest Hangberg evictions and clashes with police « Frontlines of Revolutionary Struggle

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