A clip of what appears to be members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) forcefully pulling a baby away from a mother is currently causing outrage online.
Questions posed to Cape Town police spokesperson Novela Potelwa on whether or not the SAPS in the city is confident their officers aren’t using excessive force had not yet been responded to at the time of publication, with Potelwa indicating the scene was too chaotic and noisy for her to comment, and that she would do so later.
This follows news that police have been using water cannons to disperse foreign nationals camped outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Cape Town.
Police have removed hundreds of foreign nationals and refugees from the site of a weeks-long peaceful sit-in protest over their safety in South Africa.
Western Cape police said in a statement that about 100 people were arrested after “they failed to heed the call to disperse”.
Scenes of chaos have been reported with police allegedly dragging foreign nationals across the street. Many people are bleeding, and broken possessions are strewn in the road. Some children have been separated from their parents.
The Waldorf Arcade at St George’s Mall in Cape Town was swarming with law enforcement who clashed with foreign nationals staging a sit-in at the UNHCR.
The sit-in has been ongoing since October 8, with over 5,000 refugees reportedly camping out and protesting over a lack of safety for migrants in the country.
Around 300 foreign nationals are reportedly protesting on Wednesday.
Scores of people have allegedly been injured due to the clash with law enforcement. Foreign nationals claim refugees are being pushed out of communities and are being discriminated against.
Chants from the foreign nationals can be heard, with many screaming “We want to go”.
Activist Zackie Achmat was interviewed by eNCA on the scene and said he had personally seen police chase away a doctor who was trying to help a woman in distress.
Achmat and others were there in the hope of finding children who have been separated from their parents and gone missing.
The police are said to have responded in the area to a court order stating that some employees could not access their places of work due to the weeks-long sit-in by foreign nationals.
On October 18, a court order was granted by the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court following an application by the landlord of the UNHCR building to evict the protesters.
“The SAPS (SA Police Service) 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,” a police statement read.
“With a court order in place, the SAPS is obligated to support its execution by the sheriff. Law enforcement officials from the City of Cape Town and the police’s Public Order Police are henceforth on site.”
Officials from the departments of social development and home affairs are also present.
Cape Town head of safety and security JP Smith told IOL the matter was out of his hands and involved the SAPS and national government’s department of home affairs.
“The owner of the property there has applied for a court interdict [which will] likely be affected at some point by the South African Police,” he said.
UNHCR spokesperson Hélène Caux told the publication she acknowledged the issues raised by the refugees, adding that the UNHCR was working with South African authorities to attempt to provide protection, healthcare, education and employment to refugees and asylum seekers.
According to her, roughly 268,000 refugees from countries such as Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia are currently being accommodated officially in South Africa.