Protesters from Canada and Zamimpilo informal settlements blocked the intersection on Main Reef and Commando Roads. They were allegedley promised houses by the local councillor. 200716. Picture: Chris Collingridge 555

Johannesburg - Just hours after the gear was unveiled, the Joburg metro police department (JMPD) failed to put its new riot and command centre vehicles to use in a violent protest in Riverlea on Wednesday because of “technical hitches”.

On Tuesday, the JMPD rolled out a R27 million fleet of four mobile command units and two riot vehicles.

City of Joburg member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for public safety Sello Lemao said at the unveiling that the riot and command centre vehicles would start operating immediately and would be used for fighting crime, controlling public disorder, disaster management, intelligence collection and resource distribution.

JMPD spokesman, chief superintendent Wayne Minnaar, said the vehicles had been dispatched but had not arrived at the protests because of “technical difficulties”.

This morning, hundreds of angry residents from New Canada and Zamimpilo started protesting along Main Reef and Commando roads from the early hours.

Refuse and tyres were burning, with smoke from the protest seen kilometres away.

Glass, rocks and burnt tyres littered the streets as protesters danced and sang, marching up and down the streets.

They are protesting over housing and electricity grievances, as well as service delivery in the area. Residents were promised 400 houses, but only about 80 have been built.

“We have been here since 2am. We are fighting for houses. We were promised housing years ago and we have been waiting and waiting,” said resident Nomsa Kayise.

Residents have been calling on the city’s MMC for housing, Dan Bovu, for months to address them and deal with the matter to no avail.

“We want him to come here and we want answers. He must give them to us,” Kayise said.

One of the community leaders, Thokozile Mabalea, said they had no choice but to hold this “peaceful protest”.

“Dan Bovu promised us he would come but he never showed up. We’ve gone to the Department of Housing office, we’ve sent letters but have heard nothing,” she said.

Many residents vowed that they would not vote on August 3 if the housing issue was not dealt with.

“No houses no vote!” they shouted.

Resident Menzi Nkosi said that due to a lack of electricity, residents had to use paraffin stoves and light fires to stay warm and cook.

“It’s a fire hazard. Shacks have burnt down, people have died. We need proper houses with proper electricity,” he said.

At one point during the protest, tension between police and residents was extremely high as police prepared to shoot rubber bullets which never came.

Residents had become frustrated after being promised that a representative from the Department of Housing would come after 8am but never arrived.

Despite the tension building, police continued to hold back on dispersing the crowd.

DA ward councillor Basil Douglas, who was also at the scene, said residents wanted transparency in the matter of allocations.

“They want to know who’s been allocated and that there’s been no corruption in the allocations.”

He said they were also angry that Thembelihle had received electricity but that they “are still left in the dark”.

On Tuesday, city mayor Parks Tau said that with these new vehicles, the instigators of violence would be caught on video because they carried internal and external, high-definition, 400m-range cameras.

The units also have a mini boardroom, a mobile clinic for conducting breathalyser and blood tests, bar fridges for cold drinks and water for officers during the hot summer months.

They also have thermal imaging cameras, a public address system and a “front dozer” mechanism for clearing rubble, such as rocks and burning tyres, off the roads.

The units, which are buses which have been kitted out, are also fitted with flood lights and back-up generators.

The mobile command units will also serve as satellite offices for JMPD officers during roadblocks and for roadside checks.

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The Star