Violence erupts from invasion

A close-up of the damage at Pick n Pay Express at the BP garage Clock Tower. Salauddien Khan, who has had store at BP garage for 11 years is devastated after his shop, corner of Mitchell Avenue and Eros Way, was looted and robbed hours apart.

Residents of Woodlands as well as people who illegally occupied land in the area, have condemned the looting of six shops on Monday night, after the City of Cape Town’s Anti-land Invasion Unit forcibly removed squatters from their demarcated plots earlier the same day.

Resident Vivienne Fortune told the Plainsman yesterday, Tuesday May 29, that most people were upset about it.

“These were opportunists, people who do not work and decided to steal from the community,” she said.

Ms Fortune added that the population was growing and that there was a need for housing but this is not the way to do it.

Another resident, who refused to be named, said they were horrified that school children were eating chocolates, which had been stolen overnight.

“Hulle het waentjies hier af in die pad gestoot met gesteelde goed,” she said of the looters.

She said during the chaos on Monday, gangsters had walked around showing off their guns and had opened fire, putting children’s lives in danger.

A man, who works at and lives across the road from Mitchell’s Butcher, not far from Mitchell’s Superette which was looted, said he lost a day’s wage.

He bought his house two years ago, and lives there with his wife and their five children, aged between 16 and one year. Born in Hanover Park, he moved to Manenberg before returning to Hanover Park and eventually settling in Woodlands.

“I’ve been married 20 years and I only moved into my house two years ago,” he said.

Both he and his wife work to cover their bond and care for their family.

“I can understand the need for housing but who is going to pay me for this day that I can’t work,” he said.

Nishaad Ibrahim, owner and manager of Autozone, closed shop at 1pm on Monday May 28 because protesters had burned tyres in Eisleben Road, on either side of his business.

“I called the police but they did not respond,” he said.

Mr Ibrahim called the alarm company notifying them of the protest and to inform him immediately if anything does happen. “At 7.30pm I got a call from the alarm company to say all of the security zones of the alarm system had been activated,” he said.

Mr Ibrahim, who has had the business in the area for 30 years, said he had called the police but no one came to his aid.

Mr Ibraham said their computers, tills and goods were stolen and front windows had been smashed.

He said his 14 staff members and their families would bear the brunt of the protest.

A shop at BP garage, on the corner of Hercules and Eros roads, was looted and then broken into hours later.

Salauddien Khan, who has had the shop for 11 years, employs nine people, including Junaid Adams, and his wife Naeemah. The couple, who live close to the shop, with their two children aged 12 and 7, called Mr Khan to say protesters were stoning the front of the shop.

Mr Khan said he had left the shop for magrib (evening prayers) and returned to find it being looted, with cigarettes, cash, a till and other goods having been stolen.

Mr Adams said they called Lentegeur police station several times since Monday afternoon but no one could help them.

“I had to drive to the police station and tell them to come help us,” he said, adding that they had dispersed looters around 7.30pm by driving a bakkie up to the shop.

Hussein Zakir was about to break his fast, when looters stormed into his shop.

His colleague Riyaaz Kamish, who was attending to a customer who had come to buy gas, said he had to open the gate to hand over the tank when the crowd pushed in.

Mr Kamish said Mr Zakir’s sister-in-law and two children had to be taken out the back of the shop to safety.

Marchou Jones, who frequents the shop, said it was a group of “thugs” who rampaged the shop.

“They hit him and pushed in,” he said.

The franchise Pick * Pay Express Shop, at BP garage on the corner of Eisleben and Lavender Roads in Lentegeur was also looted.

Woodlands resident Junaid Mcleod said he was approached by a group of women from the “Rooi Blokke”, a block of red flats last week asking about the vacant land, next to the mosque and along Mitchell Avenue.

He said the land invasion was peaceful from Friday until Monday morning.

Mr Mcleod said the land invaders took cover during the morning rain, just before the unit and law enforcement officers arrived.

“An elderly woman let go of a tent she had. She told the officer it was the only thing she had and he sprayed tear gas in her face.

“From that moment there was no turning back,” he said.

The officers retreated to their vehicles but then gangsters came out and started throwing stones at them.

Mr Mcleod said this was when the gangsters and young children took over.

He said the women who had asked him about the plots of land would not steal and damage private and public property.

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Joan Woodman, councillor for Ward 75, said residents who lived near the demarcated plots, along Mitchell Avenue, had called her to say they were unhappy about the squatters.

She said the people had started marking their plots on Friday May 25.

Three properties were invaded, two of which were along Mitchell Avenue and the other on Selena Way, in Woodlands.

Ms Woodman told the Plainsman the plot bordered by Orion Road, Eros Way and Mitchell Avenue was due to be rezoned for business use tomorrow, Thursday May 31.

She said the other plot, bordered by Mitchell Avenue, Hermes Road and Hercules Road, next to Masjidul Irshaad, belonged to the City’s recreation and parks department.

The third plot along Selena Way was invaded on Friday night.

The Plainsman contacted a number of officials at Lentegeur police station but by the time this edition went to print, none of them had responded to our requests for comment.