BY NORM DIXON
On September 26, police opened fire on protesting residents in Tafelsig, Cape Town, who had mobilised to prevent 1800 households' water supplies being cut off by the Cape Town Unicity council.
At least 15 people were wounded in the police attack. Victims included a five-year-old child who was shot in the back by a rubber bullet.
According to the Cape Town Anti-Privatisation Forum, heavily armed police arrived in the township in more than 100 vehicles to enforce the Tafelsig water cut-offs. They carried live ammunition, as well as teargas and rubber bullets.
As the crowd gathered, police began to fire into the crowd. Tafelsig residents burned tyres and put up barricades.
The Cape Town Times reported that several passersby were injured. David van Wyk was struck by a live ammunition as he was walking past a neighbour's house and taken to hospital.
Five-year-old Luqmaan Ryklief, who had been walking in the street with a friend, was hit by a rubber bullet. "The fat policeman shot me in my back — it's sore", he told the Times as he burst into tears.
Doreen Baatjies was wounded in the arm and buttocks. Cape Argus reporter Zain Cook was hit on the leg by a stun grenade and in the back by a rubber bullet.
"I have never experienced anything like this. All the people did was burn tyres. This was unnecessary, they shot at women and children", said an angry resident.
Neighborhood watch chairperson Brian Shadrick went to the Mitchell's Plain police station with retrieved rubber bullets and laid an attempted murder charge against a policeman suspected of having fired them.
Tafelsig anti-eviction campaigner Ishmael Petersen said the residents were being persecuted by the Unicity and provincial government authorities and should pay what they could afford, not what the council demanded, for services.
He said most people affected by the water cuts were unemployed, pensioners or were disabled and could not afford to pay the more than R400 ($A100) to have their water reconnected. The council had failed to issue warning notices before the cuts.
Acting city manager Stewart Fisher said the affected residents could apply for the legal reconnection of water to their homes, but would have to settle their outstanding accounts or make arrangements to pay them off. They would have to pay a meter reconnection penalty of R125 as water meters were also removed to prevent illegal reconnection.
The Tafelsig community has received messages of solidarity from the Gauteng Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), the Concerned Citizens Forum of Durban and the Soweto Electricity Crisis Committee. The groups represent the emerging resistance to service cuts and evictions being implemented by ANC-dominated local councils.
On September 27, the Tafelsig community marched on the offices of Democratic Alliance (DA) councillors and provincial MPs and attempted to "evict" them. The DA, an alliance of former pro-apartheid parties, rules the Western Cape province and the Cape Town local governments. The campaigners demanded an immediate moratorium on all water cuts and evictions, the release of all those arrested and meetings with the housing minister, the Cape Town mayor and the national police minister to discuss police brutality.
The Gauteng APF pointed out that water cut-offs, electricity cut-offs and evictions carried out by local municipalities are plaguing poor South Africans throughout the country. They are driven by the African National Congress government's neo-liberal economic program and its drive to privatise all social services in South Africa.
"The result is that the gap between rich and poor is widening. The new South Africa is being built on a chasm of inequality that, according to UN data, exceeds that under apartheid", the APF stated.