Johannesburg - A process to bring electricity to Diepsloot is to commence after thousands of angry residents brought the informal settlement to a halt in a volatile protest on Monday morning.
Residents claim their anger stems from being ignored by the City of Joburg after they made numerous attempts to register their plight over the lack of electricity in their community.
As a result, thousands of residents gathered at various parts of the R511 (William Nicol Drive) and the N14, where they blocked traffic with rubble, rocks and burning tyres.
The Joburg metro police department (JMPD) said it was forced to advise motorists to use alternative routes, which included the N1 and R55, to avoid the mayhem.
JMPD spokesperson Superintendent Wayne Minnaar said the eastern part of Diepsloot was affected by road closures that caused massive traffic congestion.
“The N14 was also affected, but officers were able to open the road. Traffic between Pretoria and Krugersdorp and between Pretoria and Sandton were also affected,” he said.
Johannesburg Roads Agency regional director Abigail Ndlovu said they would on Tuesday be meeting with community leaders from the informal settlement and officials from the Department of Housing and Eskom in a bid to resolve the impasse.
“We have to map out the process of resolving the issue. First we have to address decongesting the informal settlement, then we have to concern ourselves with properly aligning the structures and verifying the numbers,” she said.
Ndlovu explained that the meetings would be held during this week.
One fed-up resident, Movers Khosa, accused the authorities of not taking their grievances seriously. “The problem is that the government does not listen to us,” Khosa said.
“We went to the Speaker’s office on three occasions to deliver our memorandums and nobody has responded to them."
“This is the only language our government understands,” he said.
Protesting residents, police and the JMPD engaged in cat-and-mouse running battles as police tried to disperse the protesters by firing rubber bullets and teargas.
“The first memorandum was delivered to them on May 22 and the second on May 31, but they still did not respond. We gave them 14 days and this is the result,” Khosa said.
He emphasised that residents in the informal settlement had been living there without electricity since 1995 and that they felt neglected.
Namhla Simelane, another resident, explained that having no electricity was contributing to the high crime rate in the informal settlement.
“Women are getting raped and people are getting mugged at night because criminals can easily hide without being seen,” Simelane said.
She added that shack fires were also rife, especially in winter, because people use paraffin stoves to keep warm.
“Yesterday, there was a man who died in Diepsloot after his shack caught fire. We couldn’t help him because we don’t have water to put out the fire,” she lamented.