A protest by residents of Masiphumelele to draw attention to land issues in the community cut short the Cape Town Cycle Tour on Sunday.
Seventeen residents were arrested in the early hours of Sunday 12 March, after they blocked the road in front of the township.
Residents were unhappy with the response of ward councillor Felicity Purchase to a memorandum which they handed over on 14 February. The demolition of shacks, the unavailability of land and the lack of electricity in some areas were some of their concerns.
The protest resulted in the cycle tour being significantly shortened from 109km to 78km, with cyclists being diverted over Glencairn Expressway so that they avoided Masiphumelele. The cycle tour was then abandoned due to high winds.
On 12 March, protesting residents were quickly dispersed by metro police and SAPS firing rubber bullets. Police patrolled the community shooting rubber bullets and teargas till about 9am.
Those going to work had to catch taxis outside Masiphumelele as both entrances to Masiphumelele were closed all day.
Community leader Tshepho Moletsana said residents were “very angry” at the failure of the councillor to address them on Saturday evening.
“People were prepared to go and disrupt the cycle tour,” he said.
One of the protesters told GroundUp they were protesting because they were desperate.
The City thinks they can come and demolish people’s houses and not provide them with anything. Where do they want us to stay? We backyarders are being chased out of the places we stay in everyday and have nowhere to go,” she said.
Others complained of expensive rents that they could not afford.
Moletsana said some backyarders were being forced from their homes as the homeowners wanted to build flats. He also said shacks were being demolished without alternative land or accommodation being provided for residents.
Moletsana said that the community would hold a meeting with the mayoral committee member for informal settlements, Xanthea Limberg, on Monday night and that Purchase was also meant to attend.
SAPS spokesperson Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed that 17 people had been arrested between the ages of 24 and 40. “Six women and 11 men were arrested for public violence in Masiphumelele. They will appear in court once charged,” said Rwexana.
Purchase had not responded to GroundUp’s questions by the time of publication.
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