Category Archives: Itireleng

Pretoria News: ‘We are people not animals’

By Graeme Hosken
Crime Reporter

Waving a hammer above her head and screaming and hurling abuse as a group of specialist shack demolition operators smashed down the walls of her home, Itireleng resident Agnes Monyebodi burst into tears when her plates and kitchen table were broken.

“Why are they doing this? Why are they breaking my stuff? I have done nothing to these people yet they are breaking my home and destroying my property,” she said, as she frantically tried to pick up her children’s clothes from beneath the demolishers feet.

A hysterical Monyebodi was among thousands of Itireleng residents, who yesterday clashed with police in running battles in the settlement, barricading dirt roads with burning tyres, wood and metal as demolishers broke down their homes in a mass eviction.

Eventually restrained by a neighbour, Monyebodi, fighting back tears, vowed that she would not move. “I will come back here. No one has shown me any letter that says I cannot live here. If I cannot live here then where must I live?

“If government does not want us to live here and they do not give us houses then we will take houses, either from the foreigners, whose houses have not been broken down, or from the people living in Laudium,” she said.

As Monyebodi screamed at demolition squads armed with crowbars and iron poles, Stephan Malatji, a neighbour, sat dejected in a garden chair, his head in his hands, resigned to the fact that there was nothing he could do to stop the demolishers from tearing down his home.

With his mattress, TV, fridge and children’s clothes scattered around him, Malatji, said he was at a loss.

“What am I going to do? Where am I going to live? What are my children going to eat?” he asked as dozens of people frantically carried beds, mattresses and sheets of metal past him to friends living in the formal section of Itireleng.

For Malatji’s wife, Flora, the demolition was too much and she burst into tears as the walls of her house were broken down.

“I can’t understand it. This does not make sense. We are people not animals. Why do they have to treat us like this?” she asked.

For Jescina Mohale, of Polokwane, whose meagre belongings fitted into two suitcases, the demolition has left her angry.

“I do not know why they have done this. These people should be ashamed. Our children are now homeless and we are destitute.

“The government has taken away our houses so now they must give us new houses. We are angry and we are not going to just go away.

“We will stay here for as long as it takes to get a house, even if it means we will die,” she said.

Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC) spokesman, Kevin Odendaal, said while they had enjoyed a good relationship with the Itireleng informal settlement residents, problems arose in July with the deliberate illegal expansion of the settlement in an attempt “to force the municipality into action” over the availability of land.

“This expansion spilled onto PPC’s mining property. PPC held meetings with community and municipal representatives to resolve this issue, but none were successful and the shacks increased.

“Not only is PPC concerned about the invasion, but also about the safety of the community as Mooiplaas is a sizeable operation utilising large mining equipment and explosives,” he said.

Odendaal said: “In October an initial eviction order, which gave illegal occupants the opportunity to voluntarily vacate PPC property was given, but to date, they have not complied with the order. PPC tried all avenues to resolve this issue amicably but to no avail.”

* This article was originally published on page 3 of Pretoria News on January 12, 2010