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Johannesburg - Residents of Drieziek in Orange Farm have vowed to embark on a protest until they get a “definite response” to the same grievances they raised about five years ago.
Except for the looting of a Somali-owned shop and the shooting of one of the protesters, who was apparently injured by the shopowner, Monday’s protest was not any different from all the previous ones.
It started with the barricading of the Golden Highway with rocks and burning tyres, causing major traffic disruptions in the early hours of the morning. When police arrived and started clearing the road of different objects used to barricade the road, protesters vanished into the township, only to regroup in front of a Somali-owned shop later.
It was then reported that some of them had attempted to break into or attack the shop, prompting one of the people inside to open fire, hitting one of the protesters in the thigh.
Shopowner Yusuf Ibrahim could not comment on the shooting, but said there had been attempts to break into his shop since 2am on Monday.
Police were seen taking away the occupants of the shop, and when they returned a while later, their shop was cleared of everything.
Calm was restored only by midday, but police kept monitoring the situation.
Residents said they had for years demanded houses, sanitation and the completion of the sewerage works, which has been marred by shoddy workmanship. They also cited a need for recreational facilities, including a hall, among their demands.
Resident Zondi Molefe said he was among delegates representing the community who had for years tried to get the City of Joburg and the Gauteng government to attend to their grievances.
Molefe had with him a stack of documents and letters that the community had sent to the officials, including a petition he said was submitted to the Gauteng legislature, the Local Government and Housing Department as well as the council on the day Premier Nomvula Mokonyane delivered her state of the province address in February.
“These things started in 2008 when a construction company was sent to build a sewer system, but later the project collapsed, with the contractor leaving behind an incomplete and poorly done job. This still left many of us with no option but to use pit toilets,” Molefe said.
“Some connected themselves to the incomplete sewer pipes in what is today contributing to the unhygienic environment.”
Another resident, Bongani Khumalo, said Drieziek Extension 4 has existed for almost 18 years, but residents there had seen new areas being serviced, while their area remained unattended or allocated to contractors who never finished the project.
“We’ve been protesting like this since 2008, and promises were made whenever the community took to the streets, but five years later, the situation remains unchanged. Officials from the government and council have been here to soften us up, only to vanish with their promises, leaving us in this awful state of living,” Khumalo said.
Molefe said residents had decided to take to the streets again after sending letters to various offices, including the public protector’s, requesting that their grievances be attended to, but to no avail.
“The community are fed up and want nothing but action now. We’re aware that a company that first worked in Drieziek has had a fallout with the government, but we didn’t expect them to take forever to appoint another one,” he said.
Although residents claim they last heard from him in October, local councillor Simon Motha said “hope was still there”.
He said the contractor, who was awarded the R30 million contract in 2008, “only did 50 percent of the job, which was ridden with shoddy workmanship”.
“Our community need to understand that there are procurement procedures which are the reason the project has been delayed. Work will continue as soon as a contractor has been appointed,” he said.
“On the issue of housing, it should also be noted that no houses can ever be built or roads tarred before sewer works are completed. There are plans to develop the area, and we’re hoping for things to start happening soon.”
Police spokesman Constable Shaan Motsatsi said a foreign national who had allegedly shot and wounded a protester at the shop was arrested for possession of an unlicensed firearm.
He confirmed that one shop was looted, but said no protesters were arrested.