973 02.09.2014 Residents of Friendship Town were protesting against the high rent they had to pay for flats they were promised ownership of. Picture: Itumeleng English

Johannesburg - Residents of Friendship Town are tired of empty promises. On Tuesday morning, they protested on the streets of Mayibuye township, near Tembisa.

The busy Modderfontein Road was blocked off from 3am as residents placed burning tyres and rocks on the street.

A committee member of Friendship Town, Mpho Setati, said residents had given Gauteng MEC for Housing Jacob Mamabolo a memorandum of their demands on August 1.

“We haven’t heard anything from them since then,” said Setati.

He said the main problem was the ownership of flats.

“When we moved into these flats, it was under the promise that we would be renting to buy for a period of five years. Others were subsidised, but things changed after the place was sold to a private company in 2003,” he said.

Setati said Friendship Town was established in 1998 and handed over to the government in 2001.

He said the development was meant to build low-cost housing to generate money to build more houses as there was a serious housing backlog in Ekurhuleni.

Setati said residents were paying up to R4 200 rent when most of them earned about R5 000.

“The rent used to be R1 200 and then it went up.

“We thought we were paying for flats to become ours, but that is not happening. They want us to pay rent forever,” he said.

Residents gathered outside the residential area after the police dispersed them from the main road.

“The government has a problem of not getting back to people,” said Setati.

Residents said they were tired of being backyard dwellers who rented for life.

“We won’t pay the rent until the matter is solved. We want ownership,” they said.

Mlungisi Mvulane, chief of staff at the Department of Human Settlements, said the department had received the memorandum.

He told the residents that they were still investigating the rental issues and needed to get to the bottom of the history of the development.

“We have engaged with the rental tribunal and sent the matter there,” said Mvulane.

He said the department had already requested that no evictions be done without a mediation process.

“We are looking at long-term solutions. We appeal for the people to allow the process to unfold so that other issues can be addressed.”

Mvulane said members of the department and the leaders of the committee would meet with the rental tribunal on Wednesday to discuss the issues.

Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said two people were arrested during the protest.

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The Star