Media: Mayco member stoned by protesters

31 07 2009

31 July 2009, 06:55
Source: Cape Times

A member of the city’s mayoral committee had to beat a hasty retreat under police guard from angry protesters in Masiphumelele near Kommetjie when rocks rained down on the car in which she was travelling after a failed attempt at addressing housing concerns.

Felicity Purchase, mayco member for economic development and tourism, later said the crowd was angry with her because she would not accede to their demands for land in the area to build their shacks.The protesters also alleged she had been disrespectful.

The mayco member visited the area after repeated confrontations between police and angry residents that started before dawn yesterday morning. While residents barricaded roads and hurled missiles, police used rubber bullets, stun and smoke grenades.

Purchase said backyard tenants who had been evicted by land owners in Masiphumelele were offered the chance to move to temporary relocation areas in Delft, but many had refused.

“The natural way for the city to expand is north and east – there’s simply no space in Masiphumelele. All vacant pockets of land have been earmarked for development,” said Purchase.

More than 100 residents of the area, all formerly backyard tenants, erected barricades in Pokela Road – the main entrance to Masiphumelele – from just before 5am yesterday, determined to be heard.

At issue for most of the protesters are the continued evictions of backyarders brought about by the “People’s Housing Project” in the area.

Provincial government funds were released several months ago to provide building subsidies for title deed holders.

The resultant housing boom meant that many tenants were asked to vacate the properties which had been rented out, as deed holders planned to build their homes.

On Thursday, a fridge, tree cuttings and the contents of overturned wheelie bins littered the streets of Masiphumelele while police made an attempt at dispersing a steady crowd of mostly youngsters, that was spreading throughout the area.

One of the protesters, Buntu Twasile, 23, said that they were demanding land in the area to build their homes.

“People have been protesting the developments here in Masiphumelele for weeks and are justifiably angry at government officials for not listening to their demands.

“We won’t stop protesting until our demands are met. People like (provincial premier) Helen Zille have not been listening to our cries, that’s why we’ve been forced on to the streets,” Buntu said.

As police armed with shotguns and firing rubber bullets moved through the area, several protesters were arrested and taken to awaiting vans parked in Kommetjie Main Road, where there was a heavy security presence. Another protester, Wendy Masiza, alleged her cousin had been arrested, even though he had not been protesting.

Later in the afternoon, a crowd gathered in front of Ukhanyo Primary School for a meeting with Purchase, but it ended in chaos when the protesters were left dissatisfied by her answers about available land for housing in the area.

Nontembiso Madikane, a community activist, said Purchase was responsible for the situation after police fired rubber bullets and several stun and smoke grenades at the crowd in response to rocks aimed at her car. “She shouldn’t have addressed people like this (seated in a car over a PA system); she should’ve called the leaders to a meeting instead,” Madikane said.

Ocean View police spokesperson Nkosikho Mzuku said 12 people arrested are to be charged with public violence and would appear in the Simon’s Town Magistrate’s Court “soon”.




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