While millions of people across the city made their way to the polls on Wednesday, Tafelsig backyard dwellers refused to vote and faced off heavily armed police for the fourth day running.
Tensions simmered, with residents saying they were fed up with living in other people’s backyards and wanted to build houses on the land, which has been vacant for decades.
Since Sunday, backyarders and police have been involved in violent clashes after the backyarders occupied the field in Tafelsig, Mitchells Plain, on Saturday.
The field, which backyarders have called “New Horizons”, was littered with debris after the city’s anti-land invasion unit demolished people’s illegal structures.
As the morning went by, some residents made their way to the outskirts of the field to give support to the backyarders.
Soon residents spotted what they called “snipers” at the top of a hill overlooking the field.
They started whispering: “There’s the police, now they are going to start shooting at us again.”
On the other side of the field, dozens of police armoured vehicles pulled up, but stayed watching the backyarders from a distance.
By this time the crowd of residents had grown to around 500.
A small group of backyarders set a tyre alight, causing five armoured vehicles and around 200 police and metro police officers to begin moving towards them.
Residents left the field to avoid violence, and the backyarders retreated, but later they again come face to face with police.
The officers then started slowly retreating while the backyarders applauded and waved goodbye. The mood calmed down significantly and most people dispersed.
Shireen Samuels, a Tafelsig resident who supports the backyarders, said: “This land has been open for years, people just want a place to build houses.
“The gangsters commit crimes and murder on this field. Now when people want to build houses, the police act like this, but when there’s a murder here, you don’t see them going on like this.”
Terence Hosking, a community spokesman, cursed politicians and said people would not vote.
“They will not have our vote. Until someone gives us a piece of signed paper to say we can have the land, we will not give them our vote. Give us our land first,” he said. – Cape Times