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Fuming Waterfall Township residents called for the eviction of Tipini residents, saying that the informal settlement was a haven for criminals after a Waterfall resident was allegedly killed by criminals from Tipini.
Tipini residents are now living in fear after the attack and others have sought refuge in the community halls around Mthatha.
Families that had their shacks burnt down told the Dispatch they had nowhere else to go and have been living in Tipini for more than 20 years.
“They burnt down my shack and I lost everything inside from my furniture to my ID and clinic cards for my children,” said Nontutuzelo Ngqweleka.
Ngqweleka said they ran to a nearby river to hide when Waterfall residents attacked them on Tuesday afternoon.
Another resident Mtalimo Singamini, 60, whose house was the first one set alight, said it was alleged criminals from Tipini were terrorizing Waterfall Township residents.
“The reason behind this attack is that they say we keep criminals in our area but most people my age live in their house and are not involved in any crime but our children are the problem as they at times do unexpected things,” he said.
Singamini said they were given a notice last week ordering them to vacate the area but stayed because they had nowhere else to go. “Recently a man was killed in his house and now Waterfall people are accusing us of every crime committed in their area,” said Singamini.
“We are all terrified because they said they would come back for us, another lady’s house was set alight while she was inside when she came out they attacked her and she is in hospital right now,” said Singamini.
Ward committee member Thembeka Soyaya said the two communities were constantly on each others’ case and the recent killing of a Waterfall man intensified the situation.
“Last week two homes in Waterfall were attacked and a man died. We believe there is a group who reside in Tipini and are responsible for all the criminal activities in this area,” said Soyaya.
She said they called a meeting after the incident with Tipini residents and police and it was agreed on within seven days Tipini residents would vacate the area. “We told them to leave the area because they keep criminals but they denied that but later we heard the truth that indeed there is a house for criminals there,” said Soyaya.
Soyaya denied that Waterfall residents burnt down houses in Tipini during the raid on Tuesday. “There were no fights and no houses were burnt. We only went near the school but didn’t harm anyone but we heard that some people from Tipini were arrested because they fired gun shots,” she said.
Public Safety Portfolio Chairman Soga Mlandu said Tipini residents affected by the fire would be given temporary structures.
“Waterfall residents were very angry and they burnt down seven shacks in Tipini, things were very bad there but we took those residents to a community hall for safety,” said Mlandu.
Mlandu said Tipini residents will get temporary structures to accommodate those affected during the raid.
Police spokesman Lieutenant -Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela confirmed that the two townships were in conflict with one another and said three cases of arson had been opened at the Ngangelizwe police station.
“Waterfall residents had a meeting with Tipini residents about a week ago and it was resolved people living in Tipini would be moved but that was not yet implemented,” he said.
Fatyela said more than 30 men were arrested from Tipini but some were later released while three were detained for questioning.
“Three cases of arson have been opened but no one has been arrested yet,” said Fatyela.