WATCH│The moment father flings baby from roof as he tries to prevent shack demolition

Horror scene plays out as father throws baby from roof

HeraldLIVE photographer, Werner Hills captured the moment a father threw his baby off the roof of his shack in Joe Slovo informal settlement in Nelson Mandela Bay.

A Port Elizabeth man has been arrested after he flung his child from the roof of his shack while resisting the demolition of the structure.

The horror scene played out in Joe Slovo informal settlement on Thursday where police and metro police as well as members of the municipality were demolishing shacks built on municipal land.

Piercing screams marked the moment the man threw his toddler from the roof of the shack.

The young father’s shocking actions followed a tense standoff in Joe Slovo during which an SAPS officer had, moments before, tried to negotiate with the man from the top of a hippo parked close by.

After a frenetic rooftop scuffle with police, the 38-year-old man was overpowered, arrested and charged later with attempted murder.

As residents in Joe Slovo township screamed, police deftly caught the smiling toddler who seemed unaware of the danger.

The man was on the roof for about five minutes before he threw the baby spurred on by members of the community who shouted, throw, throw, throw.

Seconds later the man swung the baby by the leg before letting go, causing the toddler to plummet down into the waiting arms of a group of policemen who had surrounded the shack.

The man had been clutching his baby daughter to his chest on his corrugated iron rooftop amid a heavy police presence in the area to safeguard the process as the SAPS, metro police and municipal officials started demolishing shacks built on illegally occupied municipal land.

The father, with the assistance of a 35-year-old woman identified as the toddler’s mother, had climbed onto the roof of the last shack still standing with his child after about 150 residents had urged him to do so, some chanting: “They will do nothing to it [shack].”

The man was then arrested.

Port Elizabeth police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said social workers would be called in.

“Currently, the baby is still with the police. We will be getting social workers to deal with the matter,” he said.

More followed when a mob from the Joe Slovo informal settlement, near KwaDwesi, tried later to burn down the house of a councillor whose wife and two children were trapped inside, but dispersed when police were alerted.

Almost 90 structures had been demolished earlier.

But, later, a furious mob whose shacks had been destroyed attacked the home of Ward 41 councillor Simphiwe Tyukana.

The screams of the councillor’s wife, Zanele, her two small children and a neighbour did nothing to deter the group, who appeared determined to burn the house down – with the four trapped inside.

Tyukana was not home at the time.

“The one moment we were sitting inside the house, the next, rocks came flying through the windows – all of the windows are shattered,” Zanele said.

“A boulder landed right in front of me and my children, along with the curtain.

“I was terrified for my children, who were crying hysterically.

“The mob shattered all of the windows, then set a tyre alight, which – at first – they tried to force through the lounge window.

“When that didn’t work, they put the burning tyre at the front door [in an attempt to burn it] to get inside.”

Zanele said the two bodyguards appointed by the municipality who were with them at the time had fled the scene.

At his office not far from his house, Tyukana had received a call from his brother, informing him protesters were trying to burn his house down.

“I immediately called the police and then jumped into my car to drive home,” he said.

Tyukana said the protesters had fled in all directions when they heard the police were coming.

Police were still on the scene last night after Tyukana opened a case of public violence and arson.

“We were only protesting over the demolishing of our structures after the councillor had told us he would protect [them from being pulled down].”

The resident said the man’s actions had undermined their struggle to protect their homes.

It was claimed that Tyukana had allowed people who had been waiting for houses for more than 25 years to live on the land earmarked for housing development.

This was after they did not accept that only 15 out of 125 sites in the area would be made available to residents of Joe Slovo and the surrounding areas.

But Tyukana said: “There’s a lot of [land] invasion which is taking place here and, from the onset, I warned them not to invade open spaces in the ward, that it is illegal.

“I’ve addressed them and I have records [of these meetings] as proof.

“In two meetings last month, I told them ‘when you build a shack illegally, I’m going to stop you because it is wrong’.”

Another resident watched in dismay as the municipal workers demolished the shack she had just built a week ago.

“I had paid R2 000 two weeks ago for this material they are demolishing now,” she said.

“I thought this could be a temporary home for me and my grandmother, who is 105.”

It is illegal for people to occupy land, particularly in areas where there are projects approved for individuals to get houses   
Nqaba Bhanga

Mayoral committee member for housing development Nqaba Bhanga said the people who were removed from Joe Slovo East were illegal dwellers.

“It is illegal for people to occupy land, particularly in areas where there are projects approved for individuals to get houses because, in Joe Slovo, there are plans for people to get houses,” he said.

“People have waited for years to get these houses – and people are trying to steal their opportunity.”

Asked whether the municipality could keep up with the housing demand, Bhanga said: “The government can’t keep up with the housing demand because the national fiscus cannot afford it.

“Our [municipal] grants have been reduced as local government.”

To counter the issue of insufficient funding, the municipality is planning to develop more “site-and-service” projects where people will be placed while funds are being generated.

These sites will have water and electricity available.

Land invasions have gripped the country, with municipalities in Tshwane, Hermanus and Nelson Mandela Bay struggling to stop them.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said earlier this year that those occupying land illegally should face the full might of the law.

But the issue is at the heart of the EFF’s mantra for people to be unapologetic in their quest to take back the land.

EFF leader Julius Malema appeared briefly in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court last week to answer for allegedly contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act for inciting his supporters to invade land.

The prosecution asked for the matter to stand down until July 27.