“…I didn’t lose my eye for nothing”

“I applaud my husband for the great courage that he had.”

Shanaaz Haliem’s words stirred the emotions of everyone in the room. Her brave husband, Ekram, survived one of life’s biggest tragedies – he lost both his parents as well as his eye in the space of one month.

The day Hangberg turned into a war zone.

While Hangberg residents were desperately trying to defend their land, protect their homes and preserve their dignity in a battle with law enforcement officers, innocent people were shot at with four of them losing an eye after being struck by rubber bullets – Ekram being one of them.

Exactly a year later and Ekram now has a glass eye, but he says losing his eye is something he can never and will never accept. Many others in Hangberg express the same sentiments about last year’s violence, saying the community was so traumatised that it will take a long time to come for them to heal. “After all the pain and suffering I think we are starting to get through it, not that I will ever accept it,” said Ekram. “I will never accept what happened to me but I’ve learnt to live with it.”

Some of the houses that were destroyed/

Not only has losing his eye impacted on his own life, but it had drastic consequences for his family. Each time his child falls while playing, he will cover his eye for fear of losing it. “It’s got a big effect on my children. A year after and still when my child falls and maybe hurts or scratches his leg he will cry and hold his eye but nothing happened to his eye,” said Ekram, the emotional scars clearly making its appearance as he recalls the memories of 21 and 22 September 2010.

On Tuesday, 20 September the Hangberg Peace and Mediation Accord was signed. It is meant to ensure that the Western Cape government, the City of Cape Town and South African National Parks (SANParks) see through their commitments to provide housing and other basic services for a better life for the fishing community living on the Sentinel Mountain in Hout Bay.

Shot in the hand.

“The peace accord is signed and I hope this will bring a better Hout Bay,” said Ekram. “For me to see something happening will give me a sense of relief to see that I didn’t lose my eye for nothing.”

10 months after he lost his eye he received a false replacement. “In that 10 months I didn’t look into the mirror once, but since I have my eye I can look into the mirror again,” said Ekram. “But if I look at you it’s like my world is ending here.” He gestures with his hand, holding it in the middle of his face. “If I look that way I can’t even see, so my world ends here. I have to feel if the other half of my face is there. That will be with me for the rest of my life still. I will have to learn to live with it but I will never fully accept it.”

Ekram says counselling is desperately needed, even though a year has already passed. “My kids are traumatised as well as the old people.” A police nyala was recently driving on the mountain, which has the multi-million dollar view of the ocean and harbour. The sight of the vehicle sent terror through some residents. “An elderly lady next door to us started shaking and asking me if the police is coming again. There’s a lot of counselling needed.”

“A lot of kids still look at me and say ‘there’s the uncle whose eye was shot out’,” added Ekram. “It’s not something that’s just over and done with. It’s going to take time.”

This article originally appeared here.


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