‘Angry at empty election promises’

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A resident douses a burning barricade during recent protests. Picture: Jeffrey Abrahams

Cape Town - In the wake of last week’s violent service delivery protests that at one stage saw the N2 closed, residents of the Barcelona settlement in Gugulethu spoke to Weekend Argus to explain why they intend to keep on protesting.

Two of the protesters, both aged 21, chatted about what they saw as the reason for the violent protests. Neither wished to be named.

“We want houses, we live now in shacks with old people who get very sick from this weather. We just want to be like other South Africans who have a warm roof over their heads,” one said.

They said the community’s anger had been fuelled by the empty promises made by politicians during election time. “They come here for two days and then give us food and blankets, but then where must we put this stuff if we do not have a house? We are sick and tired of these empty promises.”

When asked why the protests were violent, they said if the protests had been peaceful, they would not have got a response.

“When we protest we know that if we just march then we will get no response. But if we break something important like road signs or robots then the police and government will take notice of us.

“It also shows that we are serious about the protests and it also forces them to come out here.”

They said during the protests last week, police drove in the streets shouting for people to return to their homes while firing rubber bullets in their direction, and this had damaged the relationship between the community and the police.

“The police cannot come and tell us to go to our houses in the middle of the day, they are not our mothers. They are not allowing us to fight for our rights and that is not right.

“That is why even now when we are just standing around and a police van comes past we throw a stone at them. The police do not resolve any problems here, all they are doing is making things worse.

“We are very sorry for the deaths and injuries as it was not our intention for anybody to get killed. However when you take part in a protest you accept that something can happen to you and you have to be careful, but once again we are sorry innocent people were hurt.”

Another resident of Barcelona spoke of the anger she felt towards the city authorities for spending on projects other than housing.

“They continue to build parks and plant trees but then our children get raped in the parks.

“They can spend that money on houses for us.

“They do not need to build the houses but they can come give us building materials or something.”

She said the City Council had done things to help the community, such as providing electricity, but far more was needed.

“When it is elections then they want us to jump to the voting booths but then after we vote they leave us. They just take what they want from us and then leave.”

Mzwakhe Nogqala, a community leader from Barcelona, said: “As you know we are living in this terrible area for over 20 years and we are fed up with it.”

He said the protests would continue until the community were respected as human beings. “We are not going to stop until we get what we want. We are embarrassed by the fact that nobody from the DA or the ANC has come to us, even after the protests last week.”

The community believed that protests were the only way to get heard after making many pleas to the government, including a letter sent to the housing MEC in June.

“We do not expect them to just come and start building houses, but we at least want them to come and speak to us so that we can be in the picture. My eldest daughter is 20 and she grew up here, it is not a nice place to raise a child.” - Sunday Argus

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