Residents of the Bapsfontein informal settlement, east of Johannesburg, block the entrance to the settlement to avoid being relocated due to dolomite instability in the area. Residents later clashed with police when they continued to protest against the relocation process. Photo: Sapa

The Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality on Tuesday denied the relocation of residents from the Bapsfontein informal settlement was politically motivated.

Metro spokesperson Zweli Dlamini said the decision to move the residents during the festive season to Chief Albert Luthuli Park had nothing to do with politics, but was because it was an emergency.

The Bapsfontein informal settlement was declared a local state of disaster which was not safe for human settlement due to dolomite instability.

Dolomite is soluble and over time dissolves, posing a danger to people living on dolomitic land where cave-ins known as sink holes eventually occur.

“So urgent was the situation that we had to cancel holidays,” said Dlamini.

Local Democratic Alliance councillor Benno Robinson said “the decision to relocate these residents had absolutely nothing to do with their safety and everything to do with moving more potential ANC support into a ward which the ANC is coveting”.

A week ago about 500 angry community members protested against the move and some blockaded roads with rubbish and burning tyres while others threw stones at police. Several people were arrested for public violence.

Dlamini said the decision to move the residents had been taken by the council and not the ANC.

He conceded there had been insufficient consultation with residents at Chief Albert Luthuli Park, but that the municipality's hand had been forced by the emergency. He said consultation was currently taking place.

He said 300 families had been moved to the area and that there were 3180 informal structures that needed to be moved in total.

Robinson said: “The squatters did not want to be moved. Residents of Chief Albert Luthuli do not want them there as the existing infrastructure is inadequate to deal with 3000 extra residents and home owners are claiming that their property values as being negatively affected.”

The Sowetan newspaper reported on Friday that Ekurhuleni mayor Mondli Gungubele was booed by Chief Albert Luthuli Park residents when he tried to address them last week.

According to the Sowetan the Luthuli flagship project is one of only three in the country. In terms of an agreement among home owners, Absa, the municipality and the Gauteng government, shacks are prohibited.

The newspapers quoted several residents as being dissatisfied over the establishment of the shacks by Bapsfontein residents.

Robinson said the DA had appealed to authorities to relocate Bapsfontein residents more than five years ago, but that nothing was done. -