'The teargas killed my baby'
Police insist there were no fatalities in the violence that broke out in Hermanus, but township residents say otherwise
Anathando Kapiyali was two weeks old when she tasted teargas for the first time. It was also the last thing she would ever taste after her lungs collapsed in Zwelihle clinic in Hermanus last Saturday, her mom told Times Select.
Community leaders claim she is not the only one who died from inhaling teargas in protests that have hit the Western Cape tourist attraction, about 100km south of Cape Town, over the past three weeks.
Police however insist that no fatalities have been reported since violence broke out over a fence that was erected between Zwelihle township and its more affluent, mostly white, neighbours. Brigadier Donovan Heilbron said no deaths had been reported.
Township residents say they were told by municipal officials the fence was meant for “greening” and there was a longer-term plan for a park to be built. But protesters say they are convinced the fence was erected to create a barrier between them and their neighbours.
In the past few weeks constant street battles have been waged between residents and police members. The situation escalated when protesters attacked riot police, stole three firearms and attacked a police officer with an axe, leaving him in a critical condition.
But the community say they were angry over “police brutality” and “racism”. Police Minister Bheki Cele visited the area again on Tuesday after being dismissed by the community last week.
He received a warmer reception from protesters on Tuesday but would not be drawn into commenting on several allegations of police brutality.Vuyiswa Kapiyali, Anathando’s 21-year-old mother, told Times Select she was in her small shack on the far side of Zwelihle on Friday, July 13 when she heard police trucks driving down the street and the sound of gunshots.
She said a teargas canister landed on her corrugated iron roof, quickly filling the room with teargas. Both her children went into coughing fits but when they arrived at the clinic shortly afterwards the medical staff told her that Anothando would not survive. She said she buried her daughter last Tuesday.
Earlier that day an abortive attempt by Western Cape premier Helen Zille to speak to protesters resulted in the police being overrun and a police officer being robbed of his riot control shotgun.
During a visit by Times Select this week, the township streets were strewn with rubber bullets, spent shotgun shells, teargas canisters and exploded stun grenades. Small children were seen using black rubber bullets as marbles on sidewalks.
Residents claim police members indiscriminately entered homes over the weekend and demanded the return of the stolen firearms.Ntombiziklana Mbovane, 21, lay incapacitated in her bed on Tuesday afternoon, not far from where riot police were erecting a temporary operations centre, complete with barbed wire and sandbags.
Mbovane had suffered a serious head injury which her mother, Nomasomi, claims was the work of the police. She told Times Select she was busy watching a soapie when the police came into her house.
“They just shouted at her and knocked her on the back of the head. She fell down and tried to hide under the bed but they pulled her out,” she said.
“She couldn’t eat for days; now she can only eat soft things like bananas,” she said.Another resident, Sandiso Nkomo, claimed to reporters he sustained a rubber bullet wound to the mouth after being shot at close range.
Cele, without elaborating, said the Independent Police Investigations Directorate would be looking into all these allegations of brutality.