Fiery demonstration over poor service delivery
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Johannesburg - In a field surrounded by rows of shacks in the Gugulethu/Everest informal settlement near Springs, the charred remains of a white IEC voting tent lay smoking on the ground.
This was after residents burnt it down during a protest against poor service delivery on Monday.
Just two days before elections, hundreds of angry residents blocked a large portion of Welgedacht Road in Springs, chanting, as they burnt tyres and a toilet.
About 20 Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality police officers faced the protesters.
Forty-six residents were arrested for public violence.
The demonstrators stoned passing cars and the police as they protested against poor conditions in their informal settlement.
Police were forced to divert traffic as part of Welgedacht Road remained blocked for most of the day on Monday and many Springs shops did not open.
Neighbours said the voting tent had been burnt down at about 10am. Many protesters threatened to withhold their votes tomorrow.
Attempts to reach the IEC were unsuccessful.
Residents said they had demanded better service delivery for more than 20 years and had seen little result.
“Always, they promise us they will do something,” said Cathrine Mabuye, who has lived in Gugulethu/Everest for eight years.
“I’m not going to vote.”
Many in the informal settlement live in shacks without electricity and have minimal access to taps.
The dirt roads are filled with large puddles, and mounds of rubbish spill into residents’ yards.
The protesters gathered before 4am on Monday.
Ekurhuleni officials said they would increase security around voting structures in the area leading up to the elections.
“If they believe they don’t want to vote, they have a democratic right not to do so,” said Zweli Dlamini, Ekurhuleni’s mayoral spokesman.
“However it cannot happen outside of the law.”
Police sent five community leaders to the local police station to negotiate, but council spokesman Themba Gadebe said the leaders did not present organised demands.
Leaders would discuss terms with their communities again on Tuesday.
Protesters said they were angry with police for committing “unwarranted” violence.
Jeaneth Maleka, a Gugulethu/Everest resident, said police threw teargas into her home, causing her children, aged 1 and 5, to faint.
Farther down Welgedacht Road in Payneville are about 1 000 toilets and foundations for shacks. Called Payneville Extension 1, this area is meant to house Gugulethu/Everest residents while low-cost housing is built on the site of their present settlement, but construction was halted when property owners obtained an interdict from the South Gauteng High Court in 2012.
The owners say the toilets and shacks diminish the value of their adjacent properties and lead to an increase in crime.