Sun Oct 23 01:34:40 SAST 2016

Residents' protest goes up in flames

By unknown | Jul 11, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Ntwaagae Seleka

Ntwaagae Seleka

Hundreds of residents of the Thembelihle informal settlement, south of Johannesburg, barricaded the busy K43 road yesterday, demanding better living conditions.

The angry protesters blockaded the road using burning tyres, tree trunks and stones, bringing rush-hour traffic to a standstill.

Motorists were forced to use alternative routes after the K43 road was closed.

The protesters were demanding houses, electricity and improved sanitation in their poverty-stricken area.

They accused their ward councillor, Dan Bovu, of ignoring and neglecting their demands.

Things turned ugly yesterday morning when police fired rubber bullets and stungrenades in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

The angry protesters retaliated by throwing stones at the police. They went back and continued their demonstrations by blockading the road again.

Secretary of the Landless People's Movement in the area, Phillip Phosa, said there were no improvements at Thembelihle.

Phosa said: "We voted for a better life in the area, but now our lives are a shambles."

He said there were about 14000 people living in the informal settlement and "their lives had not improved".

Another angry resident, Zodwa Gxashi, 45, said she was tired of living at Thembelihle.

She said: "Our children die daily, our shacks burn down because of the paraffin stoves and braziers that we are forced to use because it is freezing."

Councillor Bovu was later seen inside a police armoured vehicle. He spent several hours locked inside, apparently fearing for his life while the demonstrators bayed for his blood.

Bovu told the media from inside the police vehicle that some parts of the area could not be developed because it was "dangerous". He said because of this, only 3100 families would be relocated to Lehae, a few kilometres away from Thembelihle.

Residents later informed Johannesburg metro officials who were at the scene that they wanted to see the executive mayor, Amos Masondo, personally.

The community met late yesterday and appointed 10 people to represent them during their meeting with Masondo today, where their grievances will apparently be raised.

The police reported that no arrests were made and that they were monitoring the situation.


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