Residents of the newly-established informal settlement on Commissioner Street, opposite Delmore Gardens, took to the streets to protest against what they say is slow service delivery in their community, on Tuesday morning (May 22).
The protesters used rocks, tree branches, timber and burning tyres to blockade Commissioner Street and barricaded the road leading to Delmore Gardens.
They demanded what they claim they were promised by the Ekurhuleni metro’s human settlement department.
“When we were moved from our previous homes, built on dangerous ground, to this place last year, the MMC said we would only be kept in these temporary accommodations for a period of about three to six months, while they are looking for a piece of land to develop and settle us permanently.
“On top of that they also promised that in the short term they will put Apollos (high-mast lights) to improve lighting in the area. But it’s now more than a year since they dumped us here and none of their promises has been fulfilled,” said one of the community leaders Chris Mathebula.
Mathebula said the community leaders recently held several meetings with authorities and asked them to deliver on the promises that were made to the people, but their efforts proved completely unsuccessful in this respect.
“A few days ago we arranged to meet up with the ward councillor and representatives of the human settlement department in Germiston, but we waited for almost the whole day and none of them showed up. The arrogance of leaders forced us to take our issues to the streets.
“People are fed up with waiting and want answers now. Not another time, because they have already waited for too long to get what they were promised.”
According to Mathebula, after embarking on a protest, the metro sent Lovemore Chauke from the office of Ekurhuleni MMC for Human Settlements Clr Lesiba Mpya to address the angry crowd.
“He came to address us, but we are not satisfied because he failed to give specific answers to the majority of our questions. Therefore, we then demanded that we are given a proper response within seven days, or we would embark on another protest,” said Mathebula.
After being addressed by Chauke, residents reportedly slowly walked back to their homes and municipal workers including the EMPD started to remove the barricades.
- Illegal connections
This protest comes a few days after the same community barricaded the roads in protest against disconnections of illegal electricity connections in the area.
A contingent of municipal workers and the police reportedly recently arrived at the informal settlement and removed all the illegal connections, sparking off the mass demonstrations.
“We have no problem with them removing the illegal connections and taking the cables, but people became so angry because they were only expecting the municipality to put up the ‘Apollos’ they have promised us prior to the disconnections,” said Mathebula.
- Residents held to ransom
On the other hand, residents of the well-established township Delmore Gardens cried foul at the informal settlement’s behaviour, seeing it as a violation of their constitutional rights.
“We understand the plight of the community there, but we now feel like we are the ones who are being held hostage and punished for government’s failures,” said one of the Delmore Gardens resident Caswell Williams.
“People in Delmore Gardens have nothing to do with the lack of service delivery in the informal settlement, but today residents were prevented from going to work and school.
“Others had their cars pelted with stones, just because of the metro’s failure to do what it had promised the people there.
“We are most likely to endure these sufferings from time to time because these people will now and again blockade the streets whenever they feel that they are not receiving services.
“Point number one, they illegally connect electricity and the costs will be passed on us. Point number two, there is already a tension between the two communities because we made it clear that we are not happy with the establishment of a squatter camp next to our houses.
“Last point, the people there are making racist slurs against the coloured community and saying we have been benefiting so much from the government.
“Look, it’s not our fault they have been put there and not benefiting. People who own houses here bought them and have been here for more than 20 years. Now we feel like we are being threatened, and we need to stand up for ourselves. We have been keeping quiet about this,” said Williams.
Another resident, Samantha Lambert, said she and her school-going daughter survived a hail of stones while trying to exit their township.
“I had my little daughter in the car when the crowd started pelting rocks at my car and other residents’ cars exiting the township. My daughter is still traumatised and our cars were badly damaged by the protesters.
“My daughter had to write her exams today, but she, along with all the other children from the community, could not go to school because of the protest that had nothing to do with our community.”
Lambert said the value of her house dropped from R900 000 to R500 000 after shacks were built in the area.
- Metro behaving unreasonably
Ward 33 Clr Ashley Hoods said he is not taken aback by what is happening in the area, saying he saw it coming.
“I understand the plight of the people in the informal settlement, but it is unfair that the people of Delmore are made to bear the brunt of the municipality failure to deliver on its promises.
“Preventing people who are not part of the protest from going about their day-to-day business is against the Constitution of the country. It’s actually trampling on other people’s rights.
“When the people of Delmore Gardens objected to this informal settlement, we called the MMC and he came here and lied to us, saying the people would only be here for three months but it is now more than a year. I find it very unreasonable for a shack to be built next to a suburb.
“When people were prevented from going to work, I called the police and told them their officers are just standing on the periphery of the affected area, allowing the protesters to vandalise the infrastructure, and trampling on other people’s rights.”
No comment was received from the metro at the time of going to press. [email protected]