Johannesburg - Nearly a year after Diepkloof hostel residents flashed their buttocks at passing motorists during a protest over the bucket system, they took to the streets again on Monday morning over housing issues.
The source of their anger is a multimillion-rand housing project containing 84 double-storey family-sized units that have been standing empty since 2011, while they are forced to live in squalor, sometimes going for weeks without their buckets being emptied.
So they blocked off Chris Hani Road, one of Soweto’s busiest roads, with burning tyres and rocks and demanded answers.
The police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at them, but they continued
Their revolt sparked by the housing department’s decision to allocate houses to only four of the thousands of people living in the dilapidated hostel. Four township residents were the other recipients.
Community leader Sibongiseni Khoza said the department expected the beneficiaries to pay for the houses.
“People at the hostel are unemployed and only four of the eight are residents of the hostel. We have been living here for many years and still don’t have proper facilities; we still use bucket toilets and now they want us to pay for the houses,” he said.
Department of Housing spokeswoman Dikeledi Mashile disputed this, saying the units being allocated were designed for rentals.
Unemployed residents would receive RDP housing, she said.
“Hostel residents don’t want us to hand over houses to people who aren’t hostel dwellers, but we have a plan of integration and the issue is that hostel residents don’t want integration of rent stock or rent-to-buy houses,” she said.
She said they had consulted with indunas (headmen) from the hostel on Friday who had agreed to split the new rental stock between the hostel and the township.
Mashile said mayor Parks Tau was supposed to give keys to the eight beneficiaries of the houses on Monday but, because of the violence, the handing over would be postponed until further talks with the indunas.
“We do consider their views, but this had already been agreed to with the indunas and these particular units are rentals,” Mashile said.
She said parts of the hostel were falling apart and about 200 families were moved to temporary accommodation two weeks ago.
The city is trying to integrate hostels into townships.
The DA’s constituency head of Soweto East, Tsepo Mhlongo, blamed poor consultation and “false promises by the ANC-led government” for the protests.
“Today’s (Monday’s) protest is the third of similar protests in just a few months, which shows people are frustrated with the City of Johannesburg municipality and its empty promises. The City of Joburg is failing to deliver. Diepkloof residents are not happy.
“The DA calls on the mayor Parks Tau to investigate the delay of the allocation of flats and houses as a matter of urgency and to institute the necessary interventions to turn it around,” Mhlongo said.