Protesters demand services and housing

Published Apr 18, 2013


Johannesburg - The sun beat down on the smouldering pavement, the smashed and fallen traffic lights and the police vehicles clogging the intersection.

The windows of the KFC at the corner of Chris Hani Road and Nicholas Drive in Soweto were pockmarked with holes, and the stones littering the parking lot gave an indication of how this had come about.

Groups of residents had appeared sporadically through the night and early Tuesday morning outside the Elias Motsoaledi informal settlement as part of a service delivery protest.

Several hundred protesters, claiming the municipality had failed to provide them with anything from new homes to electricity, were driven back into the settlement around 10.15am when the police opened fire with rubber bullets.

Residents claimed about 10 people were injured in the scuffles.

Several streets running adjacent to the settlement were blocked by rubbish, stones, broken glass and burning tyres.

A meeting is scheduled with municipality officials on Sunday, but the community plans protests for the next seven days.

Lucky Ngobeni, one of the protest’s organisers and a member of the ward’s housing committee said: “We’re going to continue until they respond positively.”

Captain Nomvula Mbese, a police spokeswoman, would only say: “We’re just monitoring the situation.”

Police planned to go back on Wednesday night to patrol the settlement and check on a Pakistani shop they feared was to be targeted.

However, they did not know how they would patrol because street lights have been switched off because residents used them to steal electricity.

Residents claim the lack of lighting has led to a rise in crime. They also say the paraffin they must use as an alternative is expensive and causes problems like asthma.

“For about 20 years we’ve been fighting for simple things, basic services,” said Ngobeni. “We will wait for electricity, water, sanitation and housing.”

The Elias Motsoaledi housing development project began in March 2011 with the promise of 1 463 RDP houses and 3 000 rental and bonded houses.

But residents say they cannot afford to pay for houses that are not fully subsidised.

They also claim that, although a portion of the settlement has had new houses built and utilities installed, no one has been moved in yet.

“We are tired,” Ngobeni said. “We are saying enough is enough. They must respond.”

No government spokesman could be reached for comment.

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The Star

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