Stock picture by Chris Collingridge

After a tumultuous day of rioting by Puntans Hill informal settlement residents this week which left one person dead and several injured, council has taken a decision to develop the area and build low-cost houses.

A team of eThekwini Municipality officials from various departments, including human settlement, electricity and engineering, have been mandated to start conducting preliminary work in the area.

As a short-term solution, the city will also establish whether it is practical to supply the community with electricity while it expedites its planned housing development.

In an emergency meeting yesterday morning called by Nigel Gumede, chairman of the municipality’s human settlement department, to address the housing problem in the city, it was resolved that residents’ concerns and grievances should be addressed as a matter of urgency.

The meeting, with some of the 610 informal settlements’ representatives from Durban, was held after shack dwellers from Puntans Hill went on the rampage on Thursday morning, blockading the intersection of uMgeni Road and Quarry Road East, protesting over service delivery after the municipality removed illegal electricity connections earlier this week.

This, was after a resident died on Sunday, after being electrocuted while trying to reconnect wires which had been disconnected.

Thursday’s protest soon turned violent when about 500 enraged residents, who were fed-up over the city’s failed promises to provide housing and electricity, burned tyres, stopped cars and forced people out of their vehicles.

A community member, Nkonka Nzuza, died after he was run over by a motorist, Shane McMurtie, who was trying to escape the stick-wielding crowd attacking him, his son Tyler, 15, and his 16-year-old friend, Donovan. Two other people were injured and taken to Addington Hospital.

A case of culpable homicide has been opened, while three people, including community leader Sthembiso Mpanza, were arrested on public violence related charges.

Speaking after the meeting, Gumede said it was agreed that city officials would have to draw up a programme of action for the area. A delegation will also be deployed to the area to establish whether it is feasible to supply the area with electricity, he said.

“Puntans Hill as a project has never been completed,” said Gumede, adding that the municipality was forced to halt development in the area when more people erected shacks.

The city was now working on building low-cost, high-rise houses in the area. Some of the residents, said Gumede, will also be relocated to the Cornubia low-cost housing development that is yet to get off the ground in Umhlanga.

Area councillor Bhekisani Ngcobo yesterday undertook to report back to residents about the outcome of the meeting, which he noted had been “very successful”. -Independent on Sunday