Protests put pressure on City

Protesters in Joe Slovo petrol bombed a business earlier this month.

Sub-council 3 is still looking for land so that those who need housing in Joe Slovo can be accommodated, said Ward 4 councillor, Wandisile Ngeyi.

His words come amid protest action in the past few weeks in Joe Slovo and Dunoon. In both areas, the protests have not been one continuous event – one moment things are quiet, the next, there’s chaos. Burning tyres, stoning of cars and nearby businesses have been the order of the day.

Residents of surrounding areas say they hear stun grenades all hours of the day and on a few occasions, they get a whiff of tear gas in the air.

Celeste Klebba works at Meridian Systems, a business on the corner of Omuramba Road and Freedom Way, and she said that their business is always under attack whenever there’s unrest in the area.

“Attacks on our business go back to last year when there was the taxi strike in October. Our premises was stoned and windows shattered.

“On May 31, cars in the parking lot were stoned, damaging our cars. On Tuesday June 2, our place was petrol-bombed and our foyer was damaged by the fire as well as one of our offices,” she said.

Video footage of the Tuesday night incident shows a group of, what seems to be boys and young men, stoning the building, forcefully opening the big gate in front, stoning it again before a few minutes later someone throws a petrol bomb, sparking a fire.

Ms Klebba said a case of public violence was opened at Milnerton SAPS.

The riots over the past few weeks in Joe Slovo and Dunoon have both been about land. Both sets of protesters said the City of Cape Town had failed them in providing land or housing. This is despite the efforts by the provincial Department of Human Settlements to build 1 500 new flats in Racing Park near Dunoon.

According to Human Settlements MEC Tertuis Simmers, work has not begun at Racing Park due to lengthy administrative processes.

“A formal request was submitted on May 12 by my department to the City of Cape Town for the town planning application to be fast-tracked as an urgent housing application in terms of the Municipal Planning By-Law. A response is awaited. The report is currently with the mayor for approval.

“My department has received funding confirmation from the City of Cape Town to implement the project and are in a position to commence as soon as planning approvals are obtained from the City,” said Mr Simmers.

In Joe Slovo, community leader, Mzimkhulu Sopeni, said that although he might not agree with how protesters have gone about making their voices heard, he understands their frustrations.

“Promises were made to the people of Joe Slovo in terms of land and housing. The current government at the City of Cape Town should look into what was promised many years ago and follow up,” he said.

Mr Ngeyi said that land for Joe Slovo residents had been identified near Marconi Beam Primary School but the Western Cape Department of Education also wanted that land for extra classes for Marconi Beam.

“The land near the school will be used rather for extra classes because kids are crammed in their current classes and they are our future. We can’t have children learning in those conditions. Sub-council 3 has appointed the City’s housing project manager, Duke Gumede, to identify appropriate land. The Freedom Way corridor seems to be the likely option and we are looking at that stretch of land pretty closely,” he said.

The City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Malusi Booi, said that they have continued to protect City land and land under threat in the Dunoon area in an ongoing process.

“Numerous unoccupied structures are removed during these operations to protect the City land and to prevent illegal occupations that will scupper a broad range of plans and programmes in general.

“It is totally unacceptable for protesters to damage infrastructure or to act violently against the best interest of the community at large. It will not be tolerated. Engagement is ongoing,” he said.

Nosipho Mzala, a Joe Slovo resident, said all they hear is promise after promise from the City and it is time for them to deliver.

“How many times do we have to keep doing this standoff with the City? We all use our democratic rights to vote. The current government won, so it’s time for them to make due on their promises. We are not second-class citizens. We belong here just like everyone else,” she said.

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