Category Archives: Barry Bateman

Pretoria News: Mamelodi mayhem

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Mamelodi mayhem
March 24 2010 at 07:15AM

By Graeme Hosken, Barry Bateman and Lesego Masemola

Violent service delivery protests erupted in Mamelodi yesterday, with police fighting running battles with angry residents.

Police reinforcements were brought in from across Gauteng to quell the violence.

The protests, which saw nearly 4 000 people from the township’s eastern informal settlements take to the streets, led to the closure of Mamelodi’s tertiary institutions and saw demonstrators prevent thousands of people from going to work.

While nearly 1 000 protesters hurled stones at police in running street battles and blockaded roads outside the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Mamelodi campus, 3 000 protested outside Metrorail offices at the Pretoria railway station.
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City law enforcement authorities admitted they had been caught “off-guard” by the latest demonstrations which began on Monday night with “street committees” barricading roads with rubble and burning tyres.

The committees are alleged to have blocked families with children, seeking the safety of relatives’ homes in other parts of the township, from leaving the violence-racked areas of Phomolong informal settlement and Extension 11 near Pienaarspoort railway station where rioting broke out.

The violence continued through yesterday and last night a tense calm prevailed.

Protesters from Extension 11 were demonstrating over the lack of trains in their area. Metrorail suspended trains after a spate of violent attacks in October.

The demonstration in Phomolong was over a lack of housing, which residents claimed they were promised from April 1.

Protesters from both areas joined forces against the police, who were issued with rounds of buckshot.

Dozens of protesters were injured, most after being shot with rubber bullets. At one stage, the protesters told police to retreat if they wanted an end to the violence.

Nearly 1 300 Phomolong residents are set to be moved ahead of construction of the new Greenview railway station.

Community leader Nelson Ngala said they were upset because the people identified for relocation should have been moved three weeks ago. “The city was meant to address our concerns, but they never did. They ignored us and our plight,” he said adding that they would continue striking until their concerns were addressed.

Community Safety MMC (member of the mayoral committee), Dikeledi Lehobye, who admitted the city had been caught off guard by the protests, said they had called on the provincial government to dispatch reinforcements. “The situation is volatile and we are worried about the violence,” she said.

She said the protests were a surprise because they thought they had an agreement with residents.

“We reached an agreement with Phomolong residents two weeks ago over when the moves would take place, which will be done in phases.

She said the violence was unacceptable and that as government they would restore law and order.

Metrorail spokesman Sibusiso Ngomane said the decision to re-instate services to the area had been approved, but they were awaiting the findings of several reports .

“We need to asses the condition of the rail line and perform a risk assessment.

“We have been working closely with the Tshwane Metro Council, commuter representatives and the railway police,” he said.

Ngomane said this information was relayed to the commuter representatives at a meeting at the Pretoria railway station, but it was too late to stop the violence.

He said a plan to build a train station near the Greenview informal settlement had been approved.

Last year, on several occasions commuters forced train drivers to make unscheduled stops at the area to allow commuters to alight. “The tender to build the new station has been closed and the contractor appointed.

“We will build a new platform and double railway lines to allow more traffic and ensure the communities who live close to the rail reserve are catered for.

“The population explosion in the area required that we invest in infrastructure,” he said.

UP spokesman Sanku Tsunke said the campus was closed after students struggled to gain access to it.

“Access to the campus has been compromised and buses transporting students to and from the campus were not operating” he said, adding that 480 students been affected by the protests.

Tsunke said the university was due to assess the situation today and, should protests continue, it would remain closed.

He said no damage was reported at the campus and security personnel at university had been placed on high alert until further notice.

Meanwhile, Karabo Seanego reports that police foiled plans by a group of Soshanguve residents to extend their protest action for the second day.

Community leader Devilliers Makgakane said: “They told us to go home and we if we returned they would start to shoot. We decided to disperse and wait for tomorrow (today) when the premier comes here.”

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and members of her executive council were expected to visit Soshanguve to assess progress in the delivery of services.

# March 8 – Fed-up residents of Soshanguve take to the streets.

# March 8 – Mamelodi residents barricade the streets with burning tyres and rocks.

# March 9 – Mamelodi continues to burn as State of City address is given.

# March 11 – Residents of several informal settlements in Atteridgeville embark on a service delivery protest that results in the arrest 11 people.

# March 22 – Bullets fly in Soshanguve Block R as protesting residents in Ward 27 call for the removal of their councillor, William Maluleka, whom they claim is failing them.

* This article was originally published on page 1 of Pretoria News on March 24, 2010