Angry residents in Heidedal claim that one of their leaders in the fight for land, Daniel Wessenaar was wrongfully arrested as he was compliant when police forces arrived in the area on Wednesday afternoon to put an end to land grabs.
Since Sunday, homeless residents in Heidedal have told Courant that they are tired of waiting for homes and land the government promised them during election campaigns post democracy. They had threatened to occupy private land on Monday and Tuesday, until they learnt that the land just across the street from the private land was owned by the municipality. They now intend to erect shacks on the identified municipal land and say they will call the informal settlement, Winnie Mandela View. Their plans were cut short on Wednesday after it is alleged that law enforcement agencies arrived at the site, arresting Wessenaar and even shooting at those around the area.
Speaking to the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality’s City Manager, Advocate Tankiso Mea, the angry residents demanded that Wessenaar be released as he had done nothing wrong when police arrested him on Wednesday. “We have heard that he was arrested on charges of public violence, primarily also because he is a member of the EFF and the police blamed him for inciting us to take the land but this is not a political issue. It is a human rights issue,” said Abie James, who is a longstanding resident and a community leader.
Residents claimed that Wessenaar was even man-handled and thrown against a pole by the police as he was arrested and they want to understand why he was arrested as he was not doing anything wrong. Mea listened wilfully to the residents and said that the municipality did not have powers over the police department as the department does not report to the municipality. Mea suggested that while he has no powers to order police to release anyone, he believed that asking the station commander at the Heidedal police station to understand the situation might help in getting Wessenaar released. He, under no certain terms made promises that this would have him released.
Meanwhile, EFF’s PR councillor, Paulnita Marais said that she had already tried to go and visit Wessenaar, however, police refused and informed her that she would only be able to see him after 48 hours. James said that police told them that they would not be able to release Wessenaar and that he will appear tomorrow at the Batho Court in Bloemfontein. Meanwhile, Mea has committed to meeting residents later this afternoon to discuss this matter in depth with the elected committee members who will now liaise with the municipality on the land and housing issue going forward , in an effort to resolve the matter.