Media: Housing activist to appear on public violence charge

4 06 2009

June 03, 2009 Edition 2
MICHELLE JONES – Cape Times

A HOUSING activist detained on Monday on suspicion of inciting public violence has been released on a warning and is due to appear in the Somerset West Magistrate’s Court today.Mzonke Poni, chair of Abahlali baseMjondolo (association of shack dwellers), was detained following a protest by backyard dwellers demanding they be allowed to erect informal houses on a piece of land in Macassar next to the N2.

He spent Monday night in the Macassar police station’s holding cells. The dwellers had last month built shacks on the land, but they were repeatedly torn down by law enforcement officers.

On Monday, law enforcement officers again prevented community members from building on the land.

Police spokesman Billy Jones said Poni was released late yesterday. Poni alleged he was assaulted by Metro Police officers and had been thrown into the back of a police van.

Jones said police advised Poni to lodge a formal complaint of assault at the Macassar police station.

Poni’s lawyer, Vusi Matikinca, of Buchanan Boyes, said he had been at the strip of land earlier yesterday.

“It’s rainy season now and the people are sitting around a fire, without even a plastic cover,” Matikinca said.

The backyard dwellers were on Friday awarded an urgent interdict in the Western Cape High Court against the city, preventing it from demolishing shacks they had built on the land and any attempts to evict the occupants.

City spokeswoman Kylie Hatton said the city would apply for an interdict to prevent further occupation of the land.

michelle.jones@inl.co.za

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