Tensions run high in Reservoir Hills as city officials meet with angry shack dwellers
Durban – Tensions were still high at the Quarry Road informal settlement after eThekwini Municipality officials tried to calm angry residents who were demanding proper ablution facilities, electrification, housing and the release of the 25 protesters who were arrested on Monday for public violence.
Some of the issues they were protesting about have been ongoing for more than 10 years.
About 200 people had initially gathered yesterday near the informal settlement that borders Reservoir Hills and Clare Estate.
Municipal officials told the residents they had come to talk to the community about the problems they faced after protests erupted on Monday that resulted in vehicles being stoned and torched, shops looted and roads being blocked.
The City’s Human Settlements and Transportation official Sipho Mthethwa addressed the crowd.
“We ask the community to leave the roads and stop protesting. We ask you to stop this game of chasing around with the police as it will end up with people’s lives being lost. We have heard that many people have been injured.”
As he spoke, the crowd demanded to know about the release of 25 who were arrested. Mthethwa said those arrested were being processed by the SAPS and there was nothing he could do.
Chaos then erupted when more than half the crowd began blocking Quarry Road and throwing stones at passing vehicles.
This resulted in police throwing stun grenades into the violent group. Protesters, who were also being reprimanded by other informal residents for the violence, then stopped.
Soon afterwards chairperson of the Human Settlements and Infrastructure Committee, Thanduxolo Sabelo, who was sent by mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, arrived to talk to the remaining people.
Sabelo echoed Mthethwa’s comments, saying the matter of the arrested protesters was out of his hands and was now with the judicial system.
“If we had our way, we would give everybody electricity. But there are procedures that need to be followed.”
He said people had built their informal homes on a flood plain and the City could not set up electricity in the area because of that.
Sabelo said they were also working on a solution to finding people housing. Residents then raised other concerns.
One resident said: “We have a river that runs near the settlement. When it is the rainy season we get scared as it will sweep our homes away.”
Other residents said they were angry that there was only one functioning toilet for the entire area and they sometimes had to wait in queues to use it.
Sabelo promised to return next Monday with the heads of department from the municipality to talk with the residents about their other complaints.
Community representative Mbongeni Jali said he could not guarantee that the community would not protest as people were angry because their complaints were ignored for a long time.
“We have been complaining about some of these problems for more than 10 years.”
He however expressed hope that the issues would be resolved at next week’s meeting with City officials.
Meanwhile, in a letter addressed to the mayor, Reservoir Hills Community Policing Sector and the Reservoir Hills Ratepayers Association expressed their concerns about the protests and asked to meet with him to discuss the issue.
“We were held hostage in our area as entrances and exits were barricaded by protesters. The Reservoir Hills shopping mall and other businesses were looted. Such acts of violation of property, injury to innocent residents and anarchy cannot and will not be tolerated by the residents of Ward 23,” the letter read.
Kaunda’s spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said they were awaiting the letter and added the mayor would find an opportunity to talk to them as “the municipality had an open-door policy”.