Kya Sands protesters disperse

2012-03-26 17:39

Kya Sands protests

2012-03-26 13:38

Residents of Kya Sands, north of Johannesburg, are tired of waiting for houses. During their protest they blocked roads and burned tyres. WATCH

Johannesburg - Protesting residents of Kya Sands, north of Johannesburg, have dispersed after blocking streets in a service delivery protest on Monday.

Around 13:00, members of the mayoral committee (MMC) addressed the protesters, after which the crowd broke up, allowing traffic to return to normal on Malibongwe Drive.

Housing MMC, Dan Bovu, told the community he would engage with them to prioritise their needs for planned development in the area.

When he said he would check his diary to find a suitable time for this, the protesters jeered at him.

Public safety MMC Matshidiso Mfikoe said a meeting would be convened with the residents' leadership next Tuesday.

She said a broad, integrated programme of development was needed, and she committed to ask provincial government, before the meeting, about long-term solutions to problems facing the community.

"We need money for building roads, for sewers... this needs to be quantified," Mfikoe said.

Democratic Alliance ward councillor Matome Mafokwane said that the possible relocation of residents from Inadan, an informal "mini-settlement", to the greater Kya Sands informal settlement was the initial reason given for the protest.

Last Wednesday, a smaller group turned out to protest against the relocation, but this had subsequently escalated into demands for housing and sanitation.

"It started with one grievance, now it's packing on top with others," said Mafokwane said.

Bovu said about 2 000 people presently living at the informal settlement needed to be moved because they resided on a wetland, which was not conducive to development.

Possible solutions included moving families to Kya Sands or Cosmo City and engaging with local private land owners to find suitable land.

Around 500 protesters sang songs and waved sticks in the heat of the sun, closely watched by a large police contingent.

Police Nyala vehicles and danger tape cordoned off the street in the vicinity of the protest.

A water cannon was on standby, but was not used.

Legitimate concerns

Earlier, Mafokwane said the protest was not political.

"I don't want to believe that this is political, I want to separate this from politics," he said.

Mafokwane said it was unclear what had sparked the renewed protests.

A spokesperson for the informal settlement dwellers, Ephraim Lifuwas, said employers were likely to bear the brunt of the protest as workers were unable to get to work.

The intention was to pressurise the government into yielding to their demands.

"Build houses. That is what we need," he said.

Regarding the relocation of residents, Mafokwane said normally, a decision was made on an issue only after departments had given councillors a detailed brief, and feedback had been obtained from the community.

Even he, as a councillor, was not sure of the situation regarding the relocation, he said.

"I'm in the face of this protest. I need to give them answers, but even I don't know what is going on.

"A meeting was secured for tonight, but now the situation has overtaken us, and we are talking about a big crowd wanting answers now.

"It's no longer about the move, it's now about water, housing, sanitation."

Mafokwane said that although the Democratic Alliance controlled the ward politically, the African National Congress-run council controlled the resources.

"Leaving aside whether the protest is legal or illegal, their concerns are legitimate, they are valid, make no mistake," he said.

The Kya Sand protest is the latest in a number of protests around the country in the past 10 days, including protests in Heidelberg in Gauteng and Hangberg in the Western Cape.

Apart from a protest at a church in Evaton, that appeared to be connected to allegations of Satanism, the other protests were intended to draw attention to housing, water, electricity and education complaints.

Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa visited the site of protests in the farming area of Heidelberg last week. The ANC urged people to be patient with the government's pace of installing utilities and providing housing.

The Kya Sand informal settlement was established in the past two decades, on a tract of land originally surrounded by farms and agricultural holdings.

Since then it has changed into a light industrial and retail zone.

Read more on:    johannesburg  |  protests  |  service delivery

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