Nomzamo inquiry: 'Police used pepper spray'

Resident Xoliswa Masakala burst into tears as she recounted the evictions in early June.

FILE: Tensions broke out in Nomzamo informal settlement near Strand as residents fought to avoid eviction on 3 June 2014. Picture: Carmel Loggenberg/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - The Nomzamo Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday heard how police officers used pepper spray against a resident ahead of the evictions.

The commission of inquiry, set up by the Human Settlements Department, is investigating the controversial eviction process which was widely criticised.

Masakala remembered the day police arrived to break down a shack she shared with her husband and three children.

She testified that her husband, Albert, was about to leave for work on the morning of the forced evictions. She says when her husband asked a police officer what the law enforcement officials were doing in the area, he was pinned down by several officers who then pepper sprayed him in his face.

The woman told the inquiry she then intervened, but was also manhandled by officers, which left her indecently exposed.

The inquiry also heard the evictees knew their shacks were built on privately-owned land.

Masakala admitted ward councillor Mbuyiselo Matha warned the community that their shacks were built on private land.

Instead of heeding the warning, the informal settlers went ahead and erected their shacks in December last year.

The couple said a few weeks after the first evictions, more informal dwellings were built.

They claim they were caught off guard when authorities returned in early June to clear the property.

This after South African Roads Agency Limited officials, who gave testimony at the inquiry last week, claimed the community members were given an opportunity to break down their own structures.

The agency's Shaun Hornby told the inquiry that on the day the evictions were carried out some residents became unruly and set fire to the shacks.

Many people lost their belongings and others claim they were treated inhumanely.