South Africa: Lack of housing, electricity and water fuels protests in Khayelitsha, Capetown

West Cape News, November 21, 2010

Lack of services remain the  core of ongoing Khayelitsha protests


Violent protests in Khayelitsha spread to Lansdowne Road yesterday forcing authorities to close a major thoroughfare, declaring it a no-go zone.

Four Golden Arrow buses, a government car carrying matric exam answers, private cars and trucks are among vehicles set ablaze over the last two weeks.  Last weekend a bus transporting children to a camp was also stoned, slightly injuring two children, and a pre-school was badly vandalized because the owner would not let residents hold a community meeting there. The streets in and around the TR Section Bongani informal are strewn with rubbish, rocks and burnt debris.

While the protests may have been sparked by shack dwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo’s call for a month of service delivery protests over October, TR Section continues to burn.

As to who’s responsible, fingers seem to be pointed in all directions but it appears that while there are indications of political opportunism, the 2 500 residents of the informal settlement are genuinely frustrated over years of what they perceive as broken promises, and they have had enough.

Following the burning of three vehicles in TR Section on Tuesday November 11, ABM Western Cape chairperson Mzonke Poni released a statement blaming the ANC Youth League.  Poni said the ANCYL represented the “interests of the predatory elite within the ANC” and were aattempting to “hi-jack the legitimate struggles of the poor in Cape Town in an attempt to win back power from the DA”.

Co-ordinater for the ANC Youth League Dullah Omar region, Loyiso Nkohla, denied stoking the protest action.

While some TR Section residents say ANC and ANC Youth League leaders do regularly address protest planning meetings and are looking to put the DA [Democratic Alliance]-led council in an unfavourable light ahead of next year’s local government elections, these seem to be acts of political opportunism riding on a genuine way of frustration over lack of housing, electricity and water.

Some residents, such as Nowinile Mbaxa, 42, said ahead of the protests called by ABM in October, some ANC branch executive members spread rumours that the DA municipality would switch off water to the area.

Additionally, said Mbaxa, ANC leaders were saying that the municipality was deliberately not fixing broken and blocked drains in the area. “The protests are as a result of ANC branch leaders conveying wrong messages about the DA led municipality,” said Mbaxa.

However, accusations of opportunism on the ANC’s part would also play into the hands of the DA who could lay the blame on political game-playing rather than on the lack of housing and services.

And an equal number of residents disagreed that politics played a part in the matter, and all expressed frustration at a lack of services.

A member of the TR Section residents committee who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the protests were apolitical and stemmed from long-standing frustration over the non-delivery of housing promised by the provincial government.

He said a succession of MECs and ward councillors had since 1995 made promises that housing would be provided for them. The latest promise, made in 2008, was that 900 families would be moved to a new provincial housing development called Nievebegen in Kuils River.

‘We have conducted countless meetings negotiating with local government and municipality officials. We signed lots of agreement documents but nothing shows that we’re moving forward. In one of the previous meetings Provincial Human Settlement Department told us they are waiting for municipality to grade the area. But when we met with the mayor, Dan Plato, in September 2009, he told us they have never been requested as municipality to grade Nievebegen land housing. We then realized that someone out there is fooling us.”

Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela’s spokesperson Zalisile Mbali said the building of 900 houses for TR Section Bongani residents had been delayed due to “technical problems”, but now “everything will be sorted out”.

“We will start preparing the land by the end of this month in Nievebegen next to Kuilsriver and the infra-structure will be done in May next year,” he said.

The City of Cape Town says so far the protests have resulted in about R1.5million in damages from destruction to roads, traffic lights and city property.  Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke said it would cost in excess of R5,6 million to replace four buses that have been set alight.

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