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Pretoria - Wielding an assortment of home-made weapons, including pangas, thousands of infuriated residents of the Mooiplaats informal settlement on Monday displayed their frustrations on the R55, barricading the road with rocks and burning tyres, protesting against their eviction and lack of services in the dirt-strewn veld.
Police used rubber bullets to disperse the angry mob who had shown no sign of backing down.
Officers in nyalas, accompanied by metro police and private security, kept an eye on the demonstrators.
Residents say that almost 20 years after democracy, the ANC-led municipality and government have failed them with constant lies and no action to back their promises.
“We got them into power with exactly the same acts of burning tyres and protesting and that is what we will do to get them out,” said a community leader who declined to be named.
He said the municipality planned to evict them from the land which many have called home for years, and place them on a stretch of veld close to Rooihuiskraal.
On Monday, the Pretoria News was only allowed into the settlement in the company of an Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) member, who had come to address the masses on behalf of Julius Malema, whom the community called on for guidance.
The dirty roads into the settlement were also barricaded with massive rocks and stones.
Thick black smoke ascended into the air from burning objects such as tyres, rubbish and trees, aimed at preventing police from entering the area.
Within minutes almost 3 000 of the estimated 12 000 residents descended on the Pretoria News team, each wanting their voice heard.
Community leader Rabie Ndlovu said residents were concerned that the municipality was refusing to pay the owner of the land, believed to be a British national, for his land, a move that would allow the squatters to continue living there.
“The owner of this land wants his land back and that will mean we have to leave, but he has given the municipality the opportunity to buy the land from him but they don’t want to.
“How can this ANC government tell me they have no money to pay for land for their people? They think this is a game,” Ndlovu said.
According to him, mixed messages from the municipality over the years have only complicated the situation.
“One minute they say they have paid for the land, then they say they are busy with court processes.
“Then it’s another story that they are not going to buy the land because it is a dolomite area so they cannot build here. So what is the real story? We don’t care, we just want them to pay for the land so we can continue to live here.”
Ndlovu said that despite the fact that the private owner of the land had called for them to be removed, they will not go.
“We have been here for many years. We are not going anywhere. The land they want to move us to in Rooihuiskraal is far too small, and then we must move and continue suffering without services.”
Ndlovu claimed the municipality had previously made promises of RDP houses and water and sanitation, but this never materialised.
“They (ANC) make all these promises when it’s elections, but here we are 20 years later with no water, no electricity and not even a proper roof over our heads. This is how this government treats its people,” Ndlovu said.
On Monday afternoon residents gathered at one of the entrances to the settlement and said they would not leave until a representative from the municipality had addressed them.
The crowd later dispersed in the belief that a representative would address them on Tuesday afternoon.
“If they don’t come, we will go to the streets again. We don’t want to fight and be violent, why can’t they just give us what we want and all of this will be resolved.
“We will fight until we get an answer,” Ndlovu said.
Police spokeswoman Lieutenant-Colonel Katlego Mogale said police would continue monitoring the situation. Efforts to get comment from the council were fruitless.