'Give us houses'

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Anger and frustration of an embattled Nelson Mandela Bay community is etched on the face of a 98-year-old resident who has been waiting for a home for more than 20 years.

As Nomhase Mkhwayi sat in her shack that is attached to one of the 8000 toilets built in Khayamnandi, her neighbours burnt tyres yesterday, demanding their promised homes.

The protest descended into violent confrontation – not only with police, but also between neighbours.

Mkhwayi is one of thousands of people in Khayamnandi waiting for an RDP house.

But she no longer believes she will live to see her home built – a dream that has played out in her mind many times since the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990.

While Mkhwayi has lost hope, her neighbours fought bitterly as violent protests broke out for a second day running.

Yesterday, the protests – during which about 500 residents took to the streets of Ward 41 – erupted into violence, with a man trying to get to work hit by rubber bullets, a truck burnt, and two taxi drivers and their passengers robbed.

Mkhwayi says she understands why her neighbours are so angry.

She is so incensed that she shouts as she answers questions, saying her yard is simply a toilet and a cement slab.

“I started voting during the time of Nelson Mandela, but to this day I still stay in a shack full of holes,” she said despairingly.

“My yard is decorated with a toilet and a slab. When I moved here last February, I thought I was moving to my new home after many years of fighting for a house.

“It seems as if I will die staying in this old shack. What is hurting more is seeing government officials coming here to lie to us when they want our votes.”

Day two of the Ward 41 protests started at about 4am in Booysen Park.

Residents are demanding construction of RDP houses, schools, a clinic, a police station and title deeds to their houses.

Deputy mayor Bicks Ndoni addressed residents of Khayamnandi and a follow-up meeting was set for tomorrow.

In Booysen Park, neighbours fought with each other over closed roads.

Residents staying in houses they had bought demanded that the protesters clear the streets and burn tyres in front of the community hall instead. About 50 people from Booysen Park went to the corner of Booysen and Stanford roads to clean up the mess, but this upset the protesters.

There was a heated exchange of words, followed by fist-fights between the two groups, with the altercation turning into a race issue between coloured people in the area and Xhosa-speaking protesters.

“We are cleaning our streets because this is not our problem,” 21-year-old Eugene Peterson said.

“They should burn [tyres] in front of the government offices.

“People can’t go to work or school because of this protest.

“They must go fight where the government is – they can’t make our place dirty.”

Another woman, who declined to give her name, said schoolchildren had already endured a rocky start. Now roads were blocked and they could not get to classes.

“Our children are missing out [on school],” the woman said.

“We are not against people protesting for their rights but they should not inconvenience everyone.”

Police used rubber bullets, stun grenades and teargas to disperse the angry protesters, some of who threw the contents of toilet buckets onto Booysen and Stanford roads.

Booysen Road turned into a mini-war zone as police fired rubber bullets and the protesters hurled stones at both police and their neighbours.

Juri Seboko, 36, who was on his way to work, was hit in the arm by rubber bullets.

“I was not even part of the protest,” he said. “I was going to work when the police started firing rubber bullets.

“People were running in all directions and one [of the] rubber bullets [hit] my arm.”

Phatheka Matshaka, 33, said Ndoni had gone on Monday to address people in Khayamnandi.

“They sent Ward 41 councillor Mbongeni Bhungane to address us, but we told him not to bother as we want to be addressed by municipal officials,” Matshaka said.

“In this area, there are more than 1000 people who are still waiting to be relocated to the Qunu, Khayamnandi, Chatty 32 and Joe Slovo areas.

“All we want now is for NMB mayor Danny Jordaan to come and address us.” Mbulelo Khaphelo, 27, who stays in Vastrap, said people there were living under unbearable conditions.

“On rainy days, we have to leave our shacks and stay at the community hall,” he said.

“They take their time to collect our toilet buckets, which is why we are spilling them in the road.

“We are not fighting with anyone but we want better houses.”

As police managed to stabilise the situation in Booysen Park, Khayamnandi residents started protesting on the Old Uitenhage Road.

They were immediately dispersed by police.

By lunchtime, Stanford Road was a no-go area as protesters hurled stones and petrol bombs at passing vehicles.

Young boys hid in bushes and charged at unsuspecting motorists, throwing stones at them.

Two taxi drivers and their passengers were robbed in the chaos and just after 2pm, a truck was set alight at the corner of Booysen and Stanford roads.

There were only five police officers at the scene dispersing the stone-throwing crowd.

Bhungane appealed to residents not to fight each other but to work together in fighting for service delivery in their area.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said the municipality, under the leadership of Ndoni, was attending to the protesters’ issues.

“A commitment has been made and a team that includes their [community] leaders will work closely with the municipality to deal with all the issues,” Mniki said

Meanwhile, he said, allegations of wrongdoing in site and housing allocations were being investigated. “The commitment of R70-million for housing in Khayamnandi still stands,” he said.

“The three entities – Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Coega IDZ and the national government – are in discussion for the money to be made available to the municipality.

“Then, through our human settlements and the implementing agent, we can start contractor appointments and work on building top structures.

“This is a matter of high priority for the mayoral committee – a strict instruction has been given to officials to speed up the process.”

The municipality condemned violence, destruction of property and disregard of the law.

Mniki called on affected communities to act within the confines of the law and work with the municipality through their community leaders.

Police spokeswoman Colonel Priscilla Naidu said one person was arrested for public violence.


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