Battle over houses

Sne Masuku

Sne Masuku

The south township of Lamontville in Durban came to a standstill yesterday as hundreds of residents protested against not benefiting from a housing project in the area.

The angry residents also accused two area ward councillors of corruption.

Bus and taxi owners suspended services which resident's blockaded roads with stones, bricks and burnt tyres and strew rubbish all over the roads.

Pupils and workers were unable to travel because there was no public transport.

Police reinforcements from nearby police stations were deployed in the area, while fire- fighters and emergency services were later called in to be on standby.

A helicopter was later seen hovering over the area. Residents chanted freedom songs, calling for the immediate resignation of the two ward counsellors accused of taking bribes.

The protesters said they were tired of being squashed into small "tin" homes while the housing projects in the area only benefited outsiders.

Police tried to disperse the crowd but they responded by hur ling stones at them.

The police retaliated by firing rubber bullets.

No injuries were reported but several people were arrested and detained at a local police station.

The angry residents threatened not to vote and to disrupt voting at local voting stations tomorrow.

Community spokesperson Blondy Mbambo said the residents would continue with the protests until the the two councillors were suspended.

"We are going to remind the people in power who have become too comfortable at the top how it was during the days of the struggle in this province.

"We will not sit and watch people who are not from Lamontville take the homes that were built for us," she said.

A group of young people said they are forced to spend the nights at local shebeens "partying" because they don't have a place to sleep.

Provincial spokesperson for the department of local government, housing and traditional affairs Lennox Mabaso said people had been misinformed about the housing plans for the area.

"Everyone is going to benefit it cannot happen at once for everyone.

"We are going to engage with the community to rectify the misleading information," he said.