Pretoria - Two homes were set alight on Tuesday when violence erupted in Soshanguve following the eviction of some families from RDP houses.
Tshwane Metro Police officers were stoned and shot at, and had to use rubber bullets to disperse the angry evictees.
Scores of people watched as the house of ward councillor Maribishi Marotola went up in flames after an angry group of residents stormed the house in Block XX, threw stones at windows and petrol bombs inside the dwelling.
Marotola’s wife and three children were inside at the time and were saved from the flames by neighbours.
Just moments earlier, the mob had set alight the house of community liaison officer Bernard Khoza, whose wife and eight-month-old baby narrowly escaped injury.
Neighbours struggled to break down the doors to get inside and rescue them.
The violence was triggered by the eviction of families from RDP houses in an area known as Plastic View.
The evictees threatened to harm Marotola and “his associates”.
They claim that Marotola and “his associates” have been selling the RDP houses instead of correctly allocating them to families whose names are on the housing waiting list.
The council, however, denied these allegations and said that residents managed to get hold of the keys to the houses and decided to house themselves.
Metro police spokesman Isaac Mahamba said: “About three weeks ago, they broke into the place where the keys to the houses were held. They stole the keys and distributed these among themselves.
“Thus they are illegally occupying those houses and will be evicted.”
The metro started evicting people on Tuesday morning, but were met with resistance.
“When we arrived this morning, there were arguments with the community about the evictions. “
“We then managed to calm the situation down and started with the eviction of one family. Tensions flared again and the community started stoning the metro police. They managed to get the pumpaction gun of one of our members and shot him in the arm at close range. Chaos erupted and metro police fired rubber bullets.
“One of our members fell during the process and he was trampled over and kicked and assaulted by the mob. We managed to calm the situation and both our members were taken to hospital,” Mahamba said.
According to Khoza, the mob descended on his house, thinking that he had instructed metro police to evict people. “I was at the shop getting airtime to arrange a meeting, because I heard that people were angry about the evictions. When I looked in the rear-view mirror of my car, I saw about 50 people with stones, bricks and sticks storming towards me and I sped off. I went around the corner and got to the councillor’s house and saw more of them coming that way. I then sped off in the other direction,” Khoza said.
He rushed back to his house after receiving a call from neighbours that it was on fire.
The mob then also torched Marotola’s house and dispersed minutes later as police arrived on the scene.
“We want the proper people to be put in those houses. We can’t have the councillor and his people making money from houses that need to be given to people who desperately need them. I’ve been on that list since 2005 but still no house. Now they can’t even find my name,” a resident said.
“No one can occupy a home illegally. There is a process that has to be followed and everyone must respect that process,” he said.
Marotola said that he and his family would be moved to another area and that he was not worried about his life even though his house had been torched.
“ I will cope with whatever comes my way. I lost everything in that fire, but I’m still here and I will continue pushing on. I have no intention of stepping down. I have a commitment to this community. My family and I are still traumatised but we will continue with our lives.”