Johannesburg - She pulled her pants and underwear down and squatted in the road. First she showed her backside to all and sundry, then she turned around and flashed her crotch.
Nomathemba Hlongwane danced and jiggled her buttocks in protest at her disgust at the fact that the bucket system, which her hostel still depends on, had not been emptied in three months.
She was angry that her local councillor had come to her for her vote promising her things would change – only to disappear after the May 7 general elections.
An hour later, Hlongwane was flat on her back – fully clad, but floored by the tear gas police had shot to disperse the protesters.
Hlongwane was one of many female Diepkloof Hostel residents who had gathered on Chris Hani Road from 1am on Wednesday, blocking the road with burning tyres.
They wanted decent housing, toilets, electricity and water – which had been promised, but never received. So they squatted in the road, pretending to relieve themselves, as they don’t have toilets. Some emptied their full buckets of excrement on the road.
As the stench of their emptied buckets filled the morning air, they warned that if the situation continued, they might be forced to relieve themselves in the open, so the community should get used to it.
The protesters began dispersing of their own accord at about 10.30am. Suddenly two loud bangs rang out and the acrid stench of tear gas filled the air.
Hlongwane grimaced and fell. She lay as if pole-axed on the ground until someone ran up and revived her with a bucket of water. Another person brought her a cup of water. Suddenly more shots rang out. The police were now firing rubber bullets. Hlongwane was left lying on the ground, passed out from what is believed to be a respiratory problem.
“Get into the house, get into the house,” a police officer shouted, but the protesters refused.
“How can we get into the house when we are trying to help a dying person? You are busy shooting at us whereas we are in the hostel, not on the road. Come and take this lady to the hospital because you have killed her. We were just sitting here, not fighting,” they said.
Hlongwane later got up and was able to leave the scene unassisted.
Residents told The Star they were tired of living this way.
As they don’t have dustbins, they throw their rubbish next to the hostel. Some windows are broken. The hostel units have two walls and the outer wall in some units has collapsed. The foundations are also collapsing.
Sanele Msibi, a community leader, said they used to pay R20 rent but stopped paying when the hostel deteriorated.
Msibi said they took a memorandum to the Department of Housing last year and were promised a response in two weeks. They are still waiting.
At the time, Dan Bomvu, MMC for Housing at the City of Joburg, visited the hostel, but nothing has materialised.
Msibi said although 90 percent of hostel residents were unemployed, they were expected to move into units they couldn’t afford.
“The Diepkloof rental units were completed in 2009 but to date no one lives there, they are empty. All that the councillor does is to give us empty promises,” he said.
Solly Mogase, the councillor, disagreed. He claimed that he was aware that a lot of people at the hostel were employed, saying some police officers and government officials lived at the hostel.
“It’s a lie; our assessments show that many people who live there work. Our agreement with them was that the first phase will be the rental units and the future developments will be mixed units, where there’ll be rental, rent-to-buy and RDP units,” he said.
Mogase agreed the toilets had not been emptied and said it was wrong as it was a health hazard.
“This problem with the toilets is a genuine one. I had informed the department and I thought they had been emptied. I later found out that the contractor claims that he had not been paid and that’s why he did not empty them. I will be meeting the residents and the political leadership and indunas later today,” Mogase said.
Evolution of the poo wars