Pretoria - Mayor Solly Msimanga has been given until noon on Thursday to address disgruntled Eersterust residents over housing or “all hell will break loose”, residents threatened on Wednesday.
This comes after violence broke out on Wednesday when Eersterust was put on “lockdown”. Upset with what they said was slow service delivery in their community, residents barricaded roads to vent long-standing grievances, which they said continued to fall on deaf ears.
Constant electricity cut-offs, high rates and taxes, water restrictions and flawed RDP processes count among the issues residents are angry about. Hundreds of residents held protests from 5am, which saw all entrances on Stormvoël Road blocked, stones hurled by residents and rubber bullets fired by police.
Residents who tried to get to work were turned back, but schoolchildren were given a free pass in and out the township. The City suspended its morning Mamelodi Bus Service operations in Eersterust because of the violence.
Protests intensified throughout the day. Police retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas when protesters hurled rocks, smashing the windows of police vehicles, and also striking some journalists. Law enforcement was forced to beef up numbers and a massive contingent was brought in, which included members of the SAPS and metro police.
The chief operations officer from the City of Tshwane, James Murphy, tried to address the protesters, but they were having none of it. They called for Msimanga, who promised to be with them at 2pm but he didn’t pitch. Protesters said they had run out of patience with Msimanga and wanted to see houses being built.
Shaun Williams, from Nantes, said: “My children are now aged 7 and 16, and they can no longer stay with us in one bedroom. We would like to have a house of our own.”
Lamiez Fortune, another resident, said: “We want houses. All they are giving backyarders are taps.” Community leader Novina Pillay said coloured people were defined as a community without land and thus service delivery was poor.
“Our issues are housing, marginalisation and a lack of economic as well as community upliftment. Our police stations our kids don’t get placements there; our health centres, clinics our kids are not getting placements there. It’s a pure act of marginalisation by the current regime, and it’s an old issue,” she said.
The police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to try to disperse the crowd. Youths burnt rubble and tyres along Stormvoël Road. Some residents claimed that corruption had infiltrated the municipality, accompanied by nepotism and the flouting of procurement processes. Others complained about the lack of job opportunities. They said it was a failure to recognise coloureds as a legitimate community.
A resident, who only wanted to go by the name of Keet, said the current and previous regimes had ignored the community for the sole reason they were coloured while communities around them were being uplifted. “We still don’t have houses after so many years; why is this the case when development is happening all around the city?”Residents had been told there was no budget for housing development in Eersterust, he said. “We refuse to be harassed. We won’t back down until our demands are met,” Keet said.
City spokesperson Selby Bokaba said the City had accommodated Eersterust residents in Nellmapius Extension 22. They had requested all those registered on the Housing Database during 1998-99 to go to Mamelodi Mini Munitoria to complete the subsidy application forms, a process that is under way.
“One of the challenges we face is that some Eersterust residents do not want to move out of the area, and that is not how housing and service stands allocation is done."