Tembisa residents meet councillors to discuss reblocking concerns

Speaker of Ekurhuleni Council to visit Vusimuzi to see conditions

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Photo of protesters
About 50 Vusimuzi residents, an informal settlement in Tembisa, south of Johannesburg, picketed outside the Germiston Civic Center on Wednesday against “reblocking” in their community. Photo: Zoë Postman

About 50 residents from Vusimuzi, an informal settlement in Tembisa, south of Johannesburg, picketed outside the Germiston Civic Centre on Wednesday morning.

Residents had come to meet Ward Councillor Hendrick Selwana and Speaker of the Ekurhuleni Council Patricia Khumalo to stop “reblocking” in their area.

Reblocking involves repositioning shacks in densely built informal settlements to open up pathways and roads for emergency vehicles or for the provision of water, electricity and sewerage services. But it requires some residents to move and rebuild, and in many cases to give up living space.

Phineas Moloi, a member of shack-dweller organisation Abahlali baseMjondolo, told GroundUp they wanted reblocking stopped because there was “no sign of development like installation of electricity or water”. He said the City only planned to install street lights.

GroundUp previously reported that Moloi said Selwana had “manipulated the community” into thinking reblocking would bring developments such as housing, electricity and water.

“We don’t see any mention of the reblocking in Vusimuzi in the latest IDP [Integrated Development Plan] document, so we don’t know what the plans are,” said Moloi.

Moloi said six residents who were affected by reblocking shared their experiences with Khumalo at the meeting.

Zephania Mkhatshwa was one of the representatives. He has lived in Vusimuzi for 23 years. He said the City came a few days before the Easter weekend and demolished part of his shack. He said they threatened to call the police when he tried to resist.

“I was emotional in that meeting because a lot of my stuff was damaged during the reblocking. If you go there now, you will see my stuff lying all over outside,” said Mkhatshwa.

Another resident, Gogo Ndebele, who has also lived in Vusimuzi for 23 years, works as a domestic worker and stays with her five grandchildren. “They [City] gave me no warning when they demolished my shack and they left me with no materials. I had to ask my boss to help me with some zinc to rebuild my roof. The councillor doesn’t care for us,” she said.

Abahlali baseMjondolo’s Phineas Mtshali was also present at the meeting. He said Khumalo wanted to see the damage for herself. He said Khumalo agreed to visit Vusimuzi on Thursday and to reconvene after she had seen the damage.

Selwana initially agreed to speak to GroundUp, but after the meeting refused to comment.

CORRECTION: Selwana’s name was spelled incorrectly in an earlier version of this article.

TOPICS:  Housing Land

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