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Hundreds riot in Knysna after Red Ants move in to demolish shacks

Shops looted as protest spills on to the N2, stopping traffic for hours

Irafaanshia November standing in front of her demolished shack in Hornlee, Knysna.
Irafaanshia November standing in front of her demolished shack in Hornlee, Knysna.
Image: GroundUp/Siphokazi Mnyobe

Hundreds of people rioted in Knysna on Sunday, looting businesses and bringing traffic on the national highway to a halt.

An officer from the Red Ants was shot but was wearing a bulletproof vest and is not seriously injured, according to the municipality.

Chaos erupted after two shacks were demolished by the Red Ants acting for the municipality.

Knysna mayor Elrick van Aswegen said: “The buildings in question were illegal structures constructed on land not owned by the invaders.”

Lemco Garage and its shop at the entrance to Hornlee was looted, as was the adjacent Hornlee Hotel bottle store. Stolen wine was later recovered by police.

Southern Cape police spokesperson Capt Malcolm Pojie said stun grenades were used to disperse about 1,000 protesters.

Arrests and injury

At least four people were arrested for public violence. One police officer was injured.

The owners of the demolished shacks said they have been left destitute.

“I was sleeping when the Red Ant people came to destroy my shack,” said Irafaanshia November. “The people didn’t communicate with me. They just started destroying my hard work.”

November was retrenched during the lockdown. She had been staying with an aunt and 14 family members in a four-room house. She said there were already two shacks in the backyard so she had to find her own place.

She used her UIF payment to buy the building material, and moved in on Friday. On Sunday the shack was flattened and the material dumped in a field.

Hit by rubber bullets

Another shack resident, Leander Meugenė, said, “They pushed my mother and aunt down and went on with their plan to destroy my place. This is when community members started coming in numbers to stand with me.”

She said they had asked to see authorisation for the demolition. Chaos then erupted and the police and Red Ants were forced out of Hornlee and on to the N2 highway.

Johnathan Wildeman, a neighbour, was shot several times with rubber bullets. Three bullets hit his chest, one his right eye, and others hit both arms and his right leg.

“They first shot me in my chest. I tried to cover my face and that is how they shot both my arms, and then eventually shot me in the face,” he said. “The Red Ants started shooting at us. We then threw stones at them and pushed them out of our neighbourhood,” said Wildeman.

Community leaders met Van Aswegen on Monday and a follow-up meeting with the community will be set for Friday.


  • This article was first published by GroundUp

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