Category Archives: Dianne Hawker

Sunday Independent: Ermelo residents see no reason to vote

Ermelo residents see no reason to vote

Dianne Hawker

“We don’t care about Gucci and Prada. We just want delivery eKasi,” says a Wesselton resident after four days of heated, violent protests in the township near Ermelo, Mpumalanga.

It is Friday morning and he is one of scores of young, unemployed men walking the streets.

The anger in his voice is palpable. He spits the words “Gucci” and “Prada” out, referring to the penchant for fine things ANC politicians have acquired in their years of power.

The man, who identifies himself only as Nkosinathi, believes he will probably chastised and perhaps even killed for speaking out against the ruling party. This is Mpumalanga, after all.

“I’ve been receiving threats. People are telling me we are on a hit list because we are anti-revolutionary and anti-ANC. We are not anti-ANC. These are the very same issues that confront the communities of other areas. We want decent water, toilets and jobs. But (those other communities) are living in fear.”

Residents of Wesselton say they are no longer afraid. They faced off against police, some of whom used live ammunition, and most have lived to see the next day. One “comrade” has died. Solomon Madonsela has become a martyr.

What simmers here is an anger that has turned into a resolute decision: we will not accept this; we deserve better.

The signs of their struggle are not contained to one section of the sprawling settlement. Destroyed traffic lights, Telkom public phones, burnt containers and the tell-tale black smear left by burnt tyres can be seen throughout the area. Where there are no tyre marks, stones and glass are scattered on the road and pavement.

Nkosinathi spends his time with other angry young men. Some would call them militant. They are fiercely political. The call each other “comrade” and say they are fierce ANC supporters, but in the same breath vow not to vote for the ruling party – or anyone else – in the upcoming local government elections.

Community leader Dumisani Mahaye says he will make the proposal to thee community at a meeting to be held tomorrow.

Mahaye says the party, which has a majority of council seats in the Msukaligwa Municipality, should be “grounded like an errant child” by communities withholding their endorsement at the polls.

“The ANC has been promising for years. It’s been doing that since 1994. But it never lives up to its promises.”

Another “comrade” appears and joins the circle, saying the ANC’s approach doesn’t help, but arguing that the solution cannot be to vandalise state and private property. “Hasn’t the community learnt anything after 15 years? You can voice your anger, but it’s wrong to damage property. When we are angry we can’t break things that belong to us,” he says. Some nod in agreement. “The ANC angers people because it doesn’t engage them.”

There is a suggestion that 50 percent of all local jobs be retained for residents, both at the surrounding mines and in the council.

The circle is divided – some call for a 70 percent job quota for locals, while others say skills development is what’s really needed.

Mahaye goes so far as to suggest that councillor salaries be scrapped and that money be used for skills projects.

“People don’t work because they are not skilled. Why not take the councillor salaries and build something that will help people? What do the councillors do? People don’t see them. Why should they get paid?”

And older resident overhears the debate and offers his opinion. Having lived in Ermelo for more than 40 years, Jeremiah Khumalo is just as frustrated as the young men. His gripe is with a seemingly inefficient and uncaring municipality, which, he says, has ignored a request for technicians to be sent to his home to repair a burst pipe.

He takes us to his home, where water can be seen running from a hole in his driveway into the street. He scoops it out to show us the damaged pipe, explaining that he has reported it to at least three different people, including a clerk in the mayor’s office. Two months later, water still runs into the street.

Several streets away we are shown another property that has lost a large portion of its lawn to a growing body of water.

According to homeowner Moses Duma and several neighbours, council workers dug the hole “and just left it” in April.

Residents say children regularly play in the dirty water after school. Even more disturbing is the electric cabling which runs beneath the hole.

Duma says the hole was initially dug to fix a burst pipe. “They keep promising: they are coming, they are coming. But they don’t come.”

His brother Collin emerges from the house and tells us that a child nearly drowned recently. “The kids like to play in this water. I saw one of them nearly drown but I managed to get them out.”

Municipal spokesman Surprise Ngcongo said last week that the protests “had nothing to do with service delivery concerns as greatly exaggerated in the mainstream media”.

“Msukaligwa Municipality did not receive any written memorandum from the angry protesters relating to service delivery concerns.”

However not everyone in Wesselton is a “comrade”, hellbent on facing off with the state – headed by a previous generation of comrades, who many believe have forgotten their cadres.

At the small shopping complex that was the scene of violent clashes with police last week, we find Sibusiso Madi. Beside him are crutches; his foot is in bandages. He is not political, says he was not involved in protests, and just wants to return to work.

Madi is one of few residents who are gainfully employed, but today finds himself sharing an uncomfortable set of steps with the many unemployed youngsters who walk the streets of Wesselton.

“I was on my way to work. I was coming to catch my bus over there (he points at a nearby bus shelter). The police didn’t ask any questions, they just shot at me. I had to run away.”

What’s worse, as a result of the protests, Madi was trapped in the burning township from Monday, when he was shot, until Thursday. “No ambulance could come in. And the community wouldn’t let any cars in. I was prepared to pay R40 for a cab to go to the hospital. But they couldn’t come in,” he says.

As a result of the protest, he has lost out on the R1 600 he would have earned in a fortnight doing construction work on the N17 highway.

Selina Ngwenya is also just trying to get by. She sits on a pile of used coal, looking for pieces that can be used. She does not have electricity and uses the coal for cooking. “Sometimes we spend the whole day doing this. We have to look for pieces that are big.”

She also took part in the protest: “We want toilets, water and electricity.”

In Khayelihle, a new part of the township, none of the roads are tarred and there are a few green portable toilets in the area.

We see about five taps placed throughout the shack settlement, and residents are seen walking back and forth with containers.

A group of women, including Sibongile Khosi and Hlezipho Khumalo, complain that the portable toilets are often not collected for two weeks. They also believe the area needs more taps.

Will Khosi vote this year? “I won’t vote. Who will I say I’m voting for? How long have I been dirtying my ID book with stamps, going to vote? I don’t trust anyone.”

Cape Town: 5 000 from Joe Slovo at court to fight N2 evictions

Joe Slovo residents fight eviction notices
September 25 2007 at 06:32PM
By Dianne Hawker

Thousands of Joe Slovo residents gathered on the Foreshore on Tuesday morning to oppose the department of housing’s decision to evict from the N2 Gateway housing site.

The protest comes on the eve of a planned removal of families from Joe Slovo to Delft to accommodate the N2 Gateway project.

Hundreds of residents boarded trains in Langa into Cape Town on Tuesday morning.

Shouts of “viva” could be heard outside the Spoornet building in Adderley Street as the large group of men, women and children, arrived bearing eviction notices which were served on them last week.

The group did not appear to have any legal representation but a man, using a public address system, could be seen calling groups of five people to come forward at a time to have the eviction notices stamped.

There was a strong presence of SAPS and Metro Police who kept watch over the crowd, which demonstrated peacefully.

A fortnight ago, protesting Joe Slovo residents blocked the N2 highway for several hours during violent clashes with police over a government plan to temporarily move them to Delft.

The housing department then approached the Cape High Court for an order which sought to allow the removal of 100 families per week, for the next 45 weeks, to temporary housing in Delft.


5 000 at court to fight N2 evictions

Fatima Schroeder
September 26 2007 at 07:42AM

It was a day Cape High Court officials will probably never forget.

Two tables were hauled into the foyer of the court building and officials lined up behind them to stamp about 10 000 documents – two copies of a notice from each of the 5 000 families living at the Joe Slovo informal settlement to say they intend to oppose a government application for their eviction.

The notice was a single page, comprising no more than 150 words, and had to be stamped twice: by the court and attorneys.

It took the gathering of about 5 000 people more than five hours to have each of their two copies stamped by the court and by employees of Nongogo and Nuku Attorneys – the firm representing the government and housing company Thubelisha Homes.

They came by train to the city centre shortly before 11am and moved to the Paul Sauer building to the firm of attorneys representing the government and Thubelisha Homes.

There they wanted to serve a copy of the notice on the attorneys.

But they were told to wait outside the court, where representatives of the firm would receive the notices.

The large crowd then peacefully made its way across Adderley Street, into St George’s Mall to the Cape High Court, stopping traffic and attracting the puzzled gazes of curious onlookers.

Some stopped in the middle of their shopping or lunches to ask what the march was about.

The armed police officers who had followed the march from the Foreshore to the court building blocked off roads to make way for marchers and sped off to the high court to wait for the people to arrive.

The crowd stopped in Keerom Street outside the court and sat in the road waiting for those in charge to explain the process.

Five residents at a time were allowed to get up and proceed to five women representing the attorneys.

The attorneys’ stamp was necessary proof that the residents had served the document on them.

Five women – two standing and three sitting on the steps of the court building – stamped each page before signing it and giving the date and time it was received.

After a while, employees of the nearby coffee shop, Castello’s, said the women could use their tables and chairs.

In other cases, the documents are taken to room one in the building to be stamped.

But on Monday, officials working in that office and in other parts of the building set up tables in the foyer for the stamping of the documents.

The first batch were brought into the building and court official Andrew Fraser began stamping.

Moments later the others joined him.

The legal co-ordinator of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, Ashraf Cassiem, said the residents would have liked to have obtained legal representation, but there was no time to apply for legal aid.

The residents had to represent themselves and had to file individual notices of intention to oppose the application, he said.

But he emphasised that the crowd was not there to cause chaos.

“We want to prove that we are not the hooligans they say we are,” he said.

Mzonke Poni. of the Anti-Eviction Campaign, said he was aware of the difficulties in filing and serving the documents the way the residents had done.

But he added that they were all lay people.

“We’ll do it the lay way,” he said.

Last week, Cape Judge President John Hlophe granted a temporary order for people to be moved.

The order was sought by Housing Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, housing company Thubelisha, which is overseeing the N2 Gateway project, and MEC for Local Government and Housing Richard Dyantyi.

The government wants to clear land in Joe Slovo for formal housing.

Temporary housing has been arranged in Delft for the families who are to be moved.

But the people to be moved say Delft is too far away.

A schedule has been prepared for 100 families a week to be moved to Delft, beginning on Tuesday.

This will not take place, however, if the residents succeed in persuading the court that the order should not be made final.