Violence on the streets of Dunoon shows no sign of letting up – residents have rioted for a third time in a matter of weeks over shoddy services and a lack of housing, only this time foreign shopkeepers bore the brunt of their rage. On Sunday evening rioters looted the shopkeepers’ containers, burned tyres and threw stones on Potsdam Road, Malibongwe Drive and the N7.
Shopkeepers, with the 2008 xenophobic attacks still fresh in their memories, have fled the area, while the police maintain a strong presence on the streets.
Milnerton police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Daphne O’Reilly said 12 people were arrested, and police along with traffic and law enforcement officers had been deployed along affected roads.
The riots are believed to have been sparked by the City’s response to a memorandum from the EFF on behalf of Dunoon backyarders. EFF regional deputy secretary Tlhabanelo Diholo, said the three-page document had made four key demands:
* The City should provide land for much-needed housing as there was not enough space for everyone in Dunoon and most were unemployed and could not afford high rentals.
* Ward councillor Lubabalo Makeleni should be removed from his position.
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A City official should visit Dunoon to see first-hand what the community endured.
* Service delivery should be improved.
Mr Diholo said the City had had a week to respond. On Thursday evening April 14, with the deadline looming, he had emailed the City asking if it planned to.
“The people were agitated that the City was taking so long to respond. It is a sign to them that they are not being taken seriously. When the City finally responded on Friday, they focused mostly on the fact that property owners in Dunoon have a right to increase their rent and that they cannot get involved in this regard. Next, they said there is an integrated development plan (IDP) which plans to move 435 people from Dunoon to Wolwerivier and 1 375 people to Doornbach,” said Mr Diholo.
Mr Diholo dismissed the City’s plans saying they were nothing more than “delay tactics”.
He said he did not believe the backyarders they had been working with were involved in Sunday’s violence even though he admitted people “were not happy” after he read them the City’s response on Sunday evening.
“Anyone could have taken advantage of the situation and started looting their foreign brothers’ containers. It could be a ploy to shift focus from the real struggles to xenophobia, which would see the community turning against one another. This would be a victory for the City because it will prevent houses from being built,” he said.
However, unlike Mr Diholo, Mr Makeleni believes the unpopular response from the City is what sparked the riots.
“The City explained there is going to be a housing development opportunity for the Doornbach site and that’s it.
“There is no other land available. That’s what sparked the march. They took their anger out on foreign nationals who cannot be blamed in this situation,” said Mr Makeleni.
A Dunoon resident who wanted to remain anonymous, echoed Mr Makeleni’s suspicions.
He believes the Somalis’ containers were targeted because they occupied space where houses could be built.
“Somalis and Nigerians are putting containers on our land. The containers they put up beside the road are free, but when we build our homes, law enforcement is quick to take it down. As the councillor said the bomb is ticking. We are not going to rest until we get our land. Not one person came from the City even though it was requested. They don’t care,” he said.
Benedicta van Minnen, the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, said looters should be brought to book.
“The protesters purport to be backyarders from the area – most of whom state that they are revolting against the high rental amounts that they are paying to their private landlords. They caused great damage and disruption earlier in April, especially to MyCiTi infrastructure. This was after they were prevented from illegally occupying land in the area during the last week of March.
“They are demanding land for housing from the City, but this is not possible, as has been communicated to this grouping in the City’s response to the memorandum delivered to the City by the Economic Freedom Fighters on behalf of the Dunoon backyarders.
“The City has communicated to the Dunoon backyarder group that, in terms of the City’s future plans for the residents of Dunoon, more than 1 800 housing opportunities are planned for beneficiaries in line with the City’s housing allocation policy.
There are no large tracts of land available in Dunoon. All open space in and around Dunoon has been appropriated by the community already,” said Ms Van Minnen.
Describing Dunoon as an “extremely favourable location” she said it was near good infrastructure and job opportunities.
“There have been large-scale infrastructure investments in Dunoon and surrounds and active local planning initiatives to include more schools, public amenities and other community facilities. The spread of informal settlements as a result of the illegal occupation of land places an enormous strain on our resources, and land which has been invaded becomes a fire and flood risk,” she said.
She said the City could not provide services on privately-owned land without permission from the owner.
The City respected people’s right to protest, but not to the detriment of others, and political parties that were stoking riots and land grabs should be held accountable for their actions, said Ms Van Minnen.
Mayor Particia de Lille, had more harsh words for the organisers of the protest. “We condemn what these EFF thugs and gangsters are doing. It is increasing the suffering of all the people of Dunoon. Children are being prevented from going to school, and parents are being prevented from going to work to provide for their families.”
Jessica Shelver, spokeswoman for Education MEC Debbie Schafer, said schooling in Dunoon had come to a halt.
“Not one of the four schools was open yesterday and as violence is reported to be escalating, it is unlikely that schools will open today.
“The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) district officials are working with the school management of all the affected schools to ensure that catch-up plans are instituted. Our priority is to ensure the safety of all learners and educators at this time,” said Ms Shelver.