Uitenhage housing protest ends in land occupation


“It pains me when you burn tar roads while you demand new ones” councillor tells protesters

Photo of two people digging
Nomakhosazana Arends and Fiona Bossman mark out plots to occupy land apparently earmarked for a school in KwaNobuhle, Uitenhage. Photos: Thamsanqa Mbovane

About 100 people renting RDP houses and living in backyard shacks took to the streets in KwaNobuhle township, Uitenhage, on Monday.

Protesters blew whistles, sang freedom songs and blocked busy Nomakhwezana Street with rocks, mattresses and burning tyres. The protesters, from Chris Hani, want houses of their own and services.

Resident Abednigo Ndlela has been living in shacks for over 25 years. “In some of the shacks I stayed for six years … I have been waiting for an RDP house for over two decades,” he said.

Ndlela said time and again he would rent shacks from people who lived elsewhere, usually with their relatives. When the time came for RDP houses to be built, his landlord would return, evict him, demolish his shack, and then move into the new RDP house that government had built.

Abednigo Ndlela lives with his 13-year-old twin daughters in a rented one-room backyard shack. The mother of the twins died in 2008. He depends on his daughters’ child grants to survive. Sometime he plants and sells vegetables.

Councillor Lindelwa Qukubana (ANC) arrived at the protest. Choking on smoke, she suggested to the protesters: “Let’s stand across the road on the field and talk.”

A resident shouted, “No! Stand there and breath the smoke like us!”

“It pains me when you burn tar roads while you demand new ones,” said Qukubana. “There will be no budget for tarring roads that you keep burning”.

Residents complained about many problems, for example having received only 20 plastic rubbish bags in six months. “The rubbish truck is speeding when it comes to collect rubbish in our area. They drive the truck fast like a taxi … We need rubbish bins,” a resident told the councillor.

Councillor Lindelwa Qukubana told protesters she would link them up with municipal officials to address their issues.

Qukubana promised to convene a meeting with waste management and housing officials to talk about the issues for which she could not provide answers immediately.

“We have RDP houses whose owners have not been living in them for more than ten years. They are either living in Cape Town or Jo’burg. These people need to hand over those houses, [rather] than being landlords who don’t stay in their houses. We will call on the housing officials to deal with this issue,” said Qukubana.

Before they were dispersed, residents vowed to occupy vacant land across Nomakhwezana Street, which is apparently earmarked for a school.

A resident shouted, “Let’s grab the land … We have many schools in this area!”

Residents soon returned with spades, hammers, planks and wheelbarrows, and started to mark out plots.

About 100 people renting RDP houses and living in backyard shacks in KwaNobuhle protested on Monday. One poster reads: “Away with [councillor] Qukubana / Bring back Julius Mali [previous councilllor] who built us houses / Mali for councillor”.

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TOPICS:  Housing Land

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