Pretoria News: Mamelodi all geared up for showdown with cops

June 19 2007 at 10:27AM

Hundreds of Mamelodi residents are bracing themselves for a showdown with police and council officials ahead of planned evictions.

Barricading roads with rocks and burnt-out car wrecks on Monday, Lusaka residents say they will not move.

“We have heard that the council is coming for us. Our response is let them come. We are ready for them and will fight them.”

This was the warning by several Lusaka residents following Friday’s violent clashes with council-hired shack demolition men.

‘We will be providing support to the affected communities’

The running battles left a guard dead, eight others injured and seven residents behind bars for the weekend.

The guard from the security firm Gaman 12 was killed and eight others were injured after residents turned on them.

The crowd also torched a truck and three bakkies belonging to the security company during the bloody confrontation.

The warnings by residents come as the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco) pledged it support for residents of Lusaka.

The organisation said that it would be mobilising the township’s communities to stop the evictions.

‘Our view is that government cannot just evict people and throw them out’

Sanco provincial secretary Toenka Matila said the organisation would be opposing the evictions by mobilising communities to stop the evictions.

“We will be providing support to the affected communities by ensuring that government provides them with alternative accommodation should their houses be demolished.

“Our view is that government cannot just evict people and throw them out on the streets,” he said.

Matila said government should provide housing for people who have been occupying land for more than three months.

“Government should have provided housing for the people in the Lusaka section of Mamelodi a long time ago.

“People living in Lusaka have been living there for years. A lot of promises were made to them years ago which need to be kept.

“The promises were that the area would be developed and that housing would be made available for those living there,” said Matila.

He said Sanco’s position was that it was urging government not to evict people. If it did it should be providing those who were evicted with alternative housing.

“Government is aware that the majority of those living in these areas are either unemployed or under-employed and are earning well below the poverty line.

“We therefore believe that the only way to avoid conflict is by talking to them and providing them with new and proper homes,” he said.

Jean du Plessis, acting executive director of the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, said the challenges facing urban centres in South Africa called for creative solutions by the relevant local authorities.

“The first response to poor people finding a place to live in desperation should not be to evict them.

“Forced evictions in our experience are not only morally and legally wrong, but also counterproductive to development.

“We call on the city of Pretoria to meet the people concerned and find mutually acceptable solutions.

“These would be in line with the requirements of the constitution and also international law,” he said.

Mayoral committee member for housing Absalom Ditshoke said the council’s programme of removing people in the affected area remained.

“We are going to remove these people because the area they are living in is unsafe. We have said so previously,” he said.

Ditshoke said the area where the people were living was unsafe as it was on the Magaliesberg slopes.

“If there are heavy rains the people will suffer. We are trying to prevent a disaster before it occurs,” he said.

Ditshoke said: “We want the message to be clear. People cannot live in that area.

“We are giving them the opportunity to remove themselves from the area, failing which we will remove them from the land.

“Land invasion is not an option. The issue remains: they have to move – whether it is voluntarily or whether it is through eviction.

“We have been granted a court order to evict the people and we will use it if needs be.

“We are available for discussions and are prepared to listen to the residents or any organisation’s concerns, but regardless of what they are these people have to move,” Ditshoke said.