| PORT ELIZABETH

Violent protests in PE over failure to relocate shack dwellers

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“The residents have been flooded with empty promises by human settlements officials” says ward councillor

Photo of burnt out car
A security guards’ bakkie was torched and stripped. Photo: Mkhuseli Sizani
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Anger over disappointed expectations, empty promises and long delays in the relocation of residents in Vastrap informal settlement, northern Port Elizabeth, has led to over a week of protests and violent incidents.

On Friday morning, more than 100 residents had blocked Stanford and William Slammert roads with burning tyres and rocks.

The housing protest had turned violent by Wednesday afternoon after Nelson Mandela Bay Mayco Member for Human Settlements Andile Mfunda (ANC) failed to address residents.

Vastrap, established in 2009, is a congested settlement with over 1,000 shacks. Illegal electricity connections pose a serious hazard. Residents have been demanding to know when exactly the the municipality will bring trucks to relocate them to the Jaagvlakte area, about a kilometre away.

Khaya Makalima, chairperson for the Vastrap residents, said: “We visited him [Mfunda] in Pleinhuise and warned him that the residents are angry and fed up with his empty promises. We told him that they are going to burn tyres like they did last year in December. But he ignored our warning and said they can burn tyres.”

Makalima claims that after the December protest, Mfunda had promised them that they would be relocated to Jaagvlakte and that he would send officials to pre-screen them for the housing beneficiaries’ list.

“Those officials never arrived as Mfunda had promised us. We have been trying to get hold of Mfunda since last month to give us the exact date for our relocation. But he and the other officials in his department ended up not taking our calls, hence as leaders we decided to go to his office last week to tell him about the anger of the residents. His arrogance made residents shut down the [ward] councillor’s office last Friday.

“Then Mfunda came on Monday and the residents burned tyres while he was at Booysen Park inside the Community Hall.”

“Residents asked him when he will bring the trucks to relocate them to Jaagvlakte. He could not provide clear answers … He said they were earmarking land next to Booysen Park clinic for more than 800 residents that need to be relocated, while 368 residents will get their houses here in Vastrap,” said Makalima.

“The land next to the clinic is bushes and it still needs to be cleared and infrastructure to be put in place. We told Mfunda that we want the Jaagvlakte land, which [already] has water and tarred roads,” he said.

“We are sick and tired of the empty promises and fruitless meetings. Our leaders are not taking us seriously.”

“Mfunda has made residents very angry. He is arrogant and he is a liar. We don’t want to see him here anymore because he undermines the people.” Makalima said they’d rather speak to the municipal manager.

“Deplorable conditions” in Vastrap

“Vastrap is not a good place to raise children, because it is gang-infested. We have to endure gang fights and abuse of drugs here. When it rains we have to sleep at a community hall,” said Makalima.

“Last year in November a learner from Alfonso Primary School, Linomtha Njili [11 years old] was electrocuted by izinyoka lines,” said Makalima. He said other residents had also been electrocuted.

He said Mfunda’s predecessor, Nqaba Bhanga (DA), had also made empty promises and former Mayor Mongameli Bobani had refused to address them.

“We will only stop protesting when the municipal trucks come and relocate us to Jaagvlakte,” he said.

Residents took out their frustrations by torching vehicles including an ambulance. On Thursday morning, scrap metal thieves took over by pelting police vehicles and a tow truck as the driver was trying to tow away the torched ambulance.

“We are very angry because we want houses. We advise you to leave because residents are not even interested in talking to the media,” the men stripping the vehicle warned GroundUp.

Provincial police spokesperson Brigadier Tembinkosi Kinana confirmed that a metro ambulance was petrol bombed on Wednesday. “The driver and his crew jumped out and ran away. The vehicle burned out. Another ambulance was on its way to assist their colleagues when it was also pelted with stones.”

An Isuzu bakkie was also set alight and on Thursday a security vehicle was petrol bombed in William Slammert Drive, Booysen Park.

GroundUp contacted Mfunda to respond to the criticism levelled at him. He said: “Everything has been resolved and task teams were formed.” He directed GroundUp to the Human Settlements Executive Director, who did not respond to our calls.

Ward councillor Vukile Dyele (ANC) condemned the violence but said: “I understand the frustrations of the people of Vastrap. They have been waiting for too long for a better life because they live in deplorable conditions … More than three kids have lost their lives after being electrocuted by izinyoka lines. Last year on Good Friday’s eve, two kids died in Vastrap. One drowned in a trench while the second one died when two shacks caught fire. The area is also a hiding place for gangs and drugs because it is overcrowded.”

He said there had been no relocations since 2016. “The residents have been flooded with empty promises by the human settlements officials. Every year, they come and pre-screen them and do all the paperwork with the hope that they will be relocated. But nothing has been done,” he said.

He said a surveyor will be sent in Jaagvlakte. “As soon he finishes up the relocation will start,” said Dyele.

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TOPICS:  Housing

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