Hundreds of residents were evicted from their homes an hour before dawn yesterday (23/03/17) when public order police cleared an illegal settlement in Wells Estate, enforcing a high court order secured by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
Mayhem erupted when trucks, bulldozers and police vehicles entered the Elephant Park informal settlement shortly after 5am to flatten the shacks of more than 200 residents.
Nomaqawekazi Mnudu, 35, said she had been awake when she heard the rumble of vehicles and then a piercing whistle.
“A resident sounded the whistle for all of us to come outside,” she said.
“There were more than 10 police vehicles, three bulldozers and trucks to collect our belongings.”
Mnudu said police had cordoned off their homes before the demolition started.
“We were denied access and could not take any of our belongings,” she said.
“The mayor [Athol Trollip] is trying to provoke us but we will not fight him now, we will fight him at the polls.”
Mnudu said they would not leave the area, as it was their only home.
The residents were forced to watch as their homes were bulldozed and all their household items loaded onto three trucks.
In a bid to combat the mushrooming of illegal shacks, the municipality is developing a bylaw to regulate the establishment of informal settlements.
About 60 families from Wells Estate were displaced after their shacks were demolished last month following a court order in favour of the municipality.
After the eviction, police monitored the situation.
People stood a couple of metres from the police vehicles and threatened to burn tyres and close roads if the municipality did not send officials to address them.
Resident Nomanqube Zikho, 28, questioned the celebration of Human Rights Day on Tuesday.
“Our basic human right to proper housing is being overlooked. How are we supposed to take care of our families?” Zikho, who has five children, said.
“We have been outside since 5.30am. Our children are traumatised, hungry and have been crying all morning,” she said.
Some of the more defiant residents had already started to rebuild their shacks on a nearby piece of land in the afternoon.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the eviction order had been made in January.
“They helped themselves to land reserved for other socioeconomic purposes through invasion,” he said.
The residents had been warned about a pending eviction since January 1.
The household items removed would be kept at the office of the sheriff of the court for residents to fetch.
Asked where the residents were meant to go, Mniki said: “To their real homes that were legally allocated and built for them by the municipality.”
ANC Ward 60 councillor Mvuzo Mbelekane said the decision to allocate land or houses to residents was not his to make.
“If it was mine to make, I would give people the land to build on,” he said.
Police spokesman Constable Mncedi Mbombo, who had not been aware of the incident until it was queried by The Herald, confirmed the evictions.
He said residents who had begun rebuilding their shacks on the same land would face a similar fate if an eviction letter was issued by the municipality.