WATCH | Police battle refugees during eviction of protesters in Cape Town

30 October 2019 - 12:22 By Esa Alexander and Kimberly Wipfler
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Violent clashes broke out between police and foreign nationals in Cape Town on October 30 2019. Foreign nationals have been occupying Waldorf Arcade, demanding passage out of a country they no longer feel safe in.

Police have arrested about 100 people in an altercation flowing from a court-ordered eviction to remove a group involved in a sit-in protest in Cape Town.

About 300 refugees and asylum seekers have been occupying the Waldorf Arcade in St George's Mall, outside the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), since October 9. They want the UN agency to move them to a different country, for fear of xenophobic violence in South Africa.

On Wednesday police were in the area to support the sheriff in executing a court order, said Brig Novela Potelwa.

The court order was granted on October 18 at the Cape Town magistrate's court after the landlord made an application to evict the group.

"The SAPS in the Western Cape is aware of earlier efforts to engage the group facilitated by role players such as the UNHCR to resolve the impasse in an amicable manner. Unfortunately, the attempts yielded no positive result.

"With a court order in place, the SAPS is obligated to support its execution by the sheriff. Law enforcement officials from Cape Town and the police's public order police are henceforth on site."

As part of the execution of the court order, taking into account the size of the group, officials from the departments of social development and home affairs are also present to offer technical support to the situation, the brigadier said.

Witnesses said police used water cannons and fired stun grenades to to disperse the crowd, which comprised men women and children from all across Africa.

Roads were closed around the arcade and shops began shutting their doors as the situation escalated.

TimesLIVE observed a police officer arguing with a protester and trying to pull her child off her back, in an attempt to prevent the child being struck by water cannons or stun grenades.

Patient Kazadi, 27, from the DRC, said he had no prior notice of the eviction and accused police of being heavy handed.

“We’ve been here for four weeks because of xenophobia in South Africa. We came to the UN to ask for our own rights. The government must send us to any other countries. They must take us out of South Africa.

"Today they sent police and law enforcement to get us out of here. . .There’s one woman lying down here, they didn’t even call an ambulance. There’s another guy inside, bleeding. And they say, we’re not xenophobic. They are. They are xenophobic.

"[The police] just came. We were surprised. They just came and closed this side and that side. They said 'you guys must leave this place'. We said 'for what reason'?."

"They must come and take us out of here and tell us which country they want to send us too - any country where we’d feel safe. They are killing people, especially black people.

"Now they took our two leaders. We don’t know where they took them.”

Additional reporting by Dan Meyer, Jamaica Ponder, Maggie Connolly and Claudia Stagoff-Belfort

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