Pretoria - Community members of the Alaska informal settlement in Mamelodi East have warned that they will resort to the only language the government understands should their area be overlooked for relocation.
The residents gathered in the area to protest over the weekend, saying they were tired of how their area was continually passed over for relocation in favour of other informal settlements that had sprouted up in recent years.
Rector Manyama, one of the community leaders, said they were unhappy with how the department of human settlements had basically ignored the community, but was able to relocate people from other settlements.
Manyama said they had been patiently waiting for the City to intervene as they had been living in the area for years with no running water, sewerage facilities and electricity.
“We’ve even made izinyoka (illegal connections) all over the place and it’s not safe for us or our children. People have tried to be patient but they are tired of waiting, we're tired of living like this in our own country.
“We can’t be comfortable living like this anymore, and if we try to grab land it becomes a problem. We are so disadvantaged and the colour of our skin is contributing …”
Manyama said the leaders had tried to consult with the various departments starting back in 2017, but nothing was forthcoming for the over 5 000 community members who call the area home.
“As usual, for us to be recognised we need to go to the streets and burn tyres and schools so that the government can hear us. We need to fight for everything even though it’s our right, but they would rather shoot us with rubber bullets and smile and take pictures with white people.”
Resident Billy Mametja said he started living in the area in 2008, and he was yet to see any significant progress.
Mametja said it was not safe in the area as live electricity wires were littered all over the place, and all they wanted was a place where they could get just basic services, and then they do the rest for themselves.
According to Manyama, they had pleaded with the community to postpone the protest until June 14 following discussions with officials who promised that the area was scheduled for relocation but said it would start in phases.
He said they were promised that at first 2 000 residents would be relocated, with the remaining community members following in due course.
Tshwane MMC for Housing Mpho Mehlapu-Zimu however said she was surprised that community leaders had accused the City of overlooking them for relocation as they had meetings and informed them on how the relocation process would take place.
According to Mehlapu-Zimu, a meeting was convened as far back as February at the Nellmapius community hall, where community leaders, as well as councillors, were shown the presentation of the process, and all parties had agreed upon it.
She said the City was due to relocate roughly 15 000 people, and had only just completed the first phase, relocating 650 people, mainly prioritising places along flood line areas. This included moving people from areas such as Stottelpark, the Mamelodi flood victims, K54 road beneficiaries, as well as Mamelodi camp 1.