Cape Argus: Protest is ‘the only way to be heard’

Protest is ‘the only way to be heard’

July 16, 2009 Edition 1


Disgruntled with their living conditions, Khayelitsha residents say that resorting to violent protest is the only way they will force the government to deliver on basic services.

Yesterday, residents of QQ Section in Site B entered their second day of protest action, in which they clashed with the police and burned tyres and rubbish in Lansdowne Road.

On Tuesday, after widespread flooding across the city because of heavy rain, theirs was one of a number of service delivery protests reported, with others in Du Noon and Samora Machel.

The Khayelitsha residents are demanding – among other services – toilets, land for housing, water and an electricity supply from the government.

Hiding behind makeshift shelters yesterday, they pelted police with stones and were in turn fired on with rubber bullets.

When the Cape Argus team arrived at the scene, children as young as seven could be seen at the front of the protest, burning tyres, while some of the adults watched from the sidelines.

Several of the residents said they would not have protested had Mayor Dan Plato visited them “to resolve our problems”.

“We sent a letter to the mayor. He did not respond, seven days later we are taking action,” claimed Bonisizwe Magubudela, 27, who has been living in the area for five years.

A spokesperson for Plato said the mayor had visited the area previously, but could not say when his last visit had been.

“Violence is the answer. We will do more damage if we are not helped. I know violence is wrong, but what more can we do? People are tired of the situation,” Magubudela said.

Asked why children were on the forefront of the protest, Sheila Matika, a mother of two, said: “Our children want to fight for us. They also live in the shacks.”

Another protester, who said he was spending more than R200 a month to use someone else’s toilet and electricity, added that: “Only dogs can live here.”

Asked if violent protests would help achieve their goals, Promise Mkalipi, 37, who has been staying in the area for 13 years, said: “I don’t know about that.”

A resident of MB Section, opposite the QQ Section, said: “Violent action does not help. Barricading roads with stones and rubbish is not the answer. They need to sit down with the government to resolve the matter.”

Another MB Section resident complained: “We don’t know why we should be caught in the crossfire.”

Meanwhile, Macassar Village backyarders, who recently tried to occupy city land in the area illegally, will be joined by other communities on a march to Plato’s office in the city on Monday.

“We will be demanding a piece of land on which to put our shacks,” said Theliwe Macekiswana, the spokeswoman for the residents.

She said they would be demanding the return of building materials, which they allege were confiscated by the city’s anti-land invasion unit.

“The protest is meant to put pressure on government officials. If you burn tyres they will answer. That is what we believe,” she said.

Housing lobby group Abahlali baseMjondolo said in a statement that 15 informal settlements throughout Khayelitsha would participate in the march.

“(The protesters) will submit their own list of demands with a view to making their voices heard by the new mayor of the City of Cape Town,” the statement said.

Khayelitsha communities, such as the residents of sections QQ; RR; BM; PRS and NN would also be taking part in the protest, the group claimed.