The Khayelitsha Community Action Network (CAN) says it refuses to be bullied by politicians following an altercation involving one of its members and Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu earlier this week.
EyeWitness News reported that Sisulu had confirmed that she would be opening a case against Cape Town housing activist Nkosikhona Swartbooi following an altercation between the two over building materials that went viral on social media.
But on Friday, when News24 contacted Sisulu’s spokesperson Steven Motale about the minister’s intentions to open a case, he said: “The minister considers the matter closed and is focused on assisting distressed residents of Masiphumelele and Taiwan informal settlements whose homes were destroyed by fires.”
The altercation between Swartbooi and Sisulu happened during the minister’s visit to the fire-ravaged Taiwan informal settlement.
The video Swartbooi took was posted on Twitter on Monday.
Hijack plight of the poor
In a statement this week, Sisulu condemned, “… opportunists trying to hijack the plight of the poor”.
She said Swartbooi, “… sought to insert himself and and score cheap personal credit rather than continue to push and assist”, her.
Responding to Sisulu, Khayelitsha CAN said Sisulu’s legal action was a tactic to, “… intimidate and scare us”.
The group said it notes Sisulu’s statement calling them “opportunists”, but said she was, “an opportunist of note”.
News24 earlier reported that following the confrontation with Sisulu, Swartbooi said he was shocked by the way the minister shouted at him when he said residents of eMpolweni were still waiting for building materials he said she had promised.
“She took off her mask and in a violent way she was shouting at me,” Nkosikhona Swartbooi told News24 on Wednesday.
“She slapped my hand and said I mustn’t record.”
In a tweet on his Twitter page, Swartbooi claimed that moments later, when Sisulu got into her vehicle to leave, she instructed one of her protectors to confiscate his phone and force him to get into a vehicle.
He also said the community had started shouting in annoyance over the situation as the ministerial convoy left.
This week, Sisulu visited the informal settlement in Khayelitsha after a fire raged through it in the early hours of New Year’s Day, leaving at least 500 people affected.
On 17 December, a devastating fire in Masiphumelele destroyed about 1 000 structures.
Sisulu was accompanied by Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers and City of Cape Town MMC for Human Settlements councillor Malusi Booi as part of plans to fast-track relief, according to a statement by the Western Cape government.
In the video, Sisulu moves through the site, treading carefully, and Swartbooi comments: “Let’s hope, minister, you won’t do that same thing you did [at] eMpolweni. You promised for years to build structures. You never built them.”
Sisulu then replies, taking off her mask with a pink gloved hand, “No! No! No!” Swartbooi continues: “They are still waiting for you, even this very day… ” to which Sisulu replies: “You are lying.”
She then calls on him to, “… switch that off”.
When Swartbooi refuses and asks why, she says: “Because you are talking rubbish. I said to you I will buy that material.”
“Did you buy it?” he asks and she replies, “Did you bring it to me?”, as she becomes increasingly agitated at being filmed.
Swartbooi told News24 he is part of a group called Community Action Network, which “bridges gaps” between communities and shares resources and knowledge.
He is also part of a group called Cape Town Together as well as a network of human rights monitors.
They helped link the people who were evicted from eMpolweni during the lockdown to connect with lawyers to represent them.
He said the eMpolweni residents lost their materials during the evictions, and the materials that were returned were unusable.
In a meeting, Sisulu told them she would help them get it back, but he said nothing was done.
‘Community in real need’
A court judgment had ordered that they get their materials back and R2 000 compensation.
However, Khayelitsha CAN said Sisulu, “… never condemned the City of Cape Town from illegally evicting the residence of eMpolweni into homelessness, even though there was a moratorium on evictions during the lockdown”.
The group also accused the minister of appearing only after a favourable judgment towards the community had been handed down by the Western Cape High Court.
“We know 2021 elections are coming up and we will be seeing politicians in our communities more than we are used to.
“At times of real need, especially during Covid-19, we need to see real political will, delivery and implementation. The Taiwan community is in real need.”