Ri­ots shut T­hem­ba do­wn

George Herald - - VOORBLAD - Zo­la­ni Sinxo

Vi­o­len­ce broug­ht T­hem­ba­let­hu to a stand­still for the se­cond ti­me this y­e­ar fol­lo­wing the de­mo­li­ti­on of ne­w­ly built il­le­gal in­for­mal struc­tu­res in the a­rea.

Ne­ar­ly ni­ne­ty would-be and com­ple­ted ho­mes at the back of Sil­ver Town we­re bro­ken do­wn by con­trac­ted Red Ants on Tu­es­day mor­ning 12 Sep­tem­ber. Ac­cor­ding to the Wes­tern Ca­pe Pro­vin­ci­al De­part­ment of Hu­man Sett­le­ments, the Red Ants we­re exe­cu­ting a court in­ter­dict to re­mo­ve the 87 struc­tu­res.

A­bout 100 com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers gat­he­red at the si­te and wa­t­ched hel­ples­sly as the Red Ants ac­com­pa­nied by the Pu­blic Or­der Po­li­ce (Pop) de­mo­lis­hed the dwel­lings. Ac­cor­ding to a statement re­le­a­sed by the de­part­ment, no­ti­ces we­re dis­tri­bu­ted be­fo­re the de­mo­li­ti­on.

"The de­part­ment obtai­ned an in­ter­dict to de­mo­lish the il­le­gal struc­tu­res and no­ti­ces we­re put up, hen­ce the de­mo­li­ti­on. The struc­tu­res we­re built in por­ti­ons 197, 51 and 52, which the de­part­ment is plan­ning to de­ve­lop for mixed use." The land in que­s­ti­on be­longs to Pro­vin­ce.

Af­ter the Red Ants fi­nis­hed and dro­ve off with the con­fis­ca­ted buil­ding ma­te­ri­al lo­a­ded on trucks, s­to­nes star­ted to fly. Jour­na­lis­ts on the sce­ne had to flee as re­si­dents tur­ned on them. An SABC vehi­cle was da­ma­ged and al­most tor­ched with the re­por­ters inside, but ma­na­ged to ma­ke a quick ge­ta­way. Ge­or­ge He­rald jour­na­list and I­din­ga editor, Zo­la­ni Sinxo, on a scoo­t­er, had to flee for his li­fe.

We don’t ha­ve land and most of us are ren­ting. Tho­se who stay for free, li­ve in the backy­ards of re­la­ti­ves.

Frus­tra­ti­on

Bon­ga­ni Ca­tha, one of the re­si­dents w­ho­se struc­tu­re was de­mo­lis­hed, said they built t­he­re be­cau­se as backy­ard dwel­lers they are frus­tra­ted by the slow pa­ce at which go­vern­ment mo­ves to pro­vi­de hou­sing. They be­lie­ve the go­vern­ment hou­sing wai­ting list sy­stem on­ly fa­vours cer­tain people.

"We don't ha­ve land and most of us are ren­ting. Tho­se who stay for free, li­ve in the backy­ards of re­la­ti­ves. We met with the mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty and the pro­vin­ci­al go­vern­ment and we ca­me to an agreement that our struc­tu­res won't be de­mo­lis­hed and that no vi­o­len­ce will bre­ak out. Ho­we­ver, w­hat we saw to­day was a com­ple­te op­po­si­te of our agreement. This shows they don't ha­ve hu­ma­ni­ty; they are look­ing for war and if it's war they want, war is w­hat they will get. Ho­we­ver, we will con­ti­nue to enga­ge with them and the re­si­dents will gi­ve us a way for­ward as to w­hat we are going to do af­ter this," said Ca­tha.

Vi­o­len­ce

Pro­tes­ts con­ti­nu­ed throug­hout the af­ter­noon, and es­ca­la­ted in the e­ar­ly hours of Wed­nes­day mor­ning. Ma­ny buil­dings we­re da­ma­ged and van­da­li­sed, in­clu­ding a new s­cien­ce youth cen­t­re that was set to be o­pe­ned at the end of the month. Ma­ny at­tempts to set buil­dings a­lig­ht we­re stop­ped by the po­li­ce. The N2 was clo­sed until just be­fo­re 10:00 on Wed­nes­day mor­ning as pro­tes­ters burnt ty­res on the free­way and bloc­ked the la­nes with ro­ad signs and tree trunks. Vehi­cles we­re al­so pel­ted with s­to­nes. At the ti­me of going to press at a­bout 14:30 on Wed­nes­day, six people, one man and fi­ve wo­men, had been ar­res­ted and the access bridge to T­hem­ba­let­hu was still clo­sed.

Se­ver­al fi­res we­re still bur­ning in the a­rea and a he­a­vy po­li­ce pre­sen­ce was being main­tai­ned. Ex­ams we­re dis­rup­ted as schools we­re clo­sed and people could not get to work. A dog was found burnt in w­hat look­ed li­ke a neckla­cing. It could not be esta­blis­hed if the dog was al­re­a­dy de­ad w­hen it was set a­lig­ht. In a se­pa­ra­te in­ci­dent a­not­her dog was run o­ver.

Hou­sing pha­se two

The de­part­ment said o­ver 4 000 hou­sing op­por­tu­ni­ties will be de­li­ver­ed in the a­rea un­der the Up­gra­ding of In­for­mal Sett­le­ments Pro­gram­me (UISP). The first pha­se of the pro­ject, which con­sis­ts of

1 750 hou­sing op­por­tu­ni­ties, has been com­ple­ted and be­ne­fi­ci­a­ries ha­ve ta­ken occu­pa­ti­on of the hou­ses.

The de­part­ment said it is now wor­king on the se­cond pha­se and the in­va­ded a­rea forms part of the de­ve­lop­ment foot­print. The de­part­ment the­re­fo­re had to act on the il­le­gal in­va­si­on, as it would ha­ve an ad­ver­se im­pact on the im­ple­men­ta­ti­on of the sub­se­quent pha­ses. He­ad of Hu­man Sett­le­ments Im­ple­men­ta­ti­on in the De­part­ment, P­hi­la Mayi­se­la, said the in­va­si­on of land will de­lay hou­sing pro­jects and af­fect ma­ny be­ne­fi­ci­a­ries who ha­ve been wai­ting pa­tient­ly for hou­ses. "We can­not al­low a hand­ful of people to de­lay a pro­ject that will be­ne­fit thou­sands of fa­mi­lies in this hou­sing pro­ject. If people are not hap­py a­bout a­ny­thing re­la­ted to our hou­sing al­lo­ca­ti­on, they are al­ways wel­co­me to talk to us," said Mayi­se­la. Vi­o­lent hou­sing-re­la­ted pro­tes­ts al­so took pla­ce in T­hem­ba­let­hu on Wed­nes­day 12 Ju­ly. Du­ring this pro­test, se­ver­al vehi­cles we­re da­ma­ged in sto­ne-thro­wing in­ci­dents, and three we­re set a­lig­ht.

The il­le­gal squat­ters star­ted sta­king their claims two mont­hs ago and the Ge­or­ge Mu­ni­ci­pa­li­ty has been a­wa­re of the in­ten­ti­on of the backy­ard dwel­lers to e­rect ho­mes on the land for mo­re than a month.

Pho­to: Zo­la­ni Sinxo

A po­li­ce of­fi­cer stands guard as pro­tes­ters burn ty­res and ot­her de­bris, blocking the ro­ad al­ong Nel­son Man­de­la Bou­le­vard in T­hem­ba­let­hu. Vehi­cles and buil­dings we­re da­ma­ged and law en­for­ce­ment of­fi­cers had their hands full pre­ven­ting buil­dings being set a­lig­ht.

Pho­tos: Zo­la­ni Sinxo

Red Ants wor­ked as fast as they could to de­mo­lish the il­le­gal struc­tu­res.

The in­ter­secti­on at the traf­fic lig­hts as you en­ter T­hem­ba­let­hu was one of the ri­ot hots­pots.

The af­ter­math of the ri­ots is c­le­ar­ly vi­si­ble in the streets of T­hem­ba­let­hu y­e­ster­day af­ter­noon. Ge­or­ge Mu­ni­ci­pal fi­re­fig­h­ters dri­ve past the re­si­due of burnt-out ty­res in T­hem­ba­let­hu du­ring the pro­tes­ts.

A con­structi­on vehi­cle at the new T­hem­ba­let­hu youth cen­t­re was set a­lig­ht.

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