Residents spend night on the street

2011-09-22 07:13

About 5 000 residents of the Schubart Park flats in Pretoria spent the night on the streets after police “illegally evicted” them, community leader Mashao Chauke said.

“Basically we all slept outside. Only [some] women, children and disabled were accommodated at (a nearby) church. More were supposed to be but there wasn’t enough room so most of the women and children slept outside in the cold.”

Yesterday evening police fired rubber bullets at rowdy residents, who had set the building alight in protest against water and power cuts.

Later in the night, 63 people had been arrested but Chauke said by this morning the number had risen to 79.

He said three people were injured after being shot with rubber bullets but there could more unaccounted for. “Some were coming from work but they were arrested, they weren’t involved.”

Chauke also denied that the building was unsafe, as the police suggested, saying it was habitable although they did not have water and electricity.

In July 2008, four adults and a toddler died in a fire at the neighbouring Kruger Park flats.
The blaze was started in protest against evictions from Schubart Park by a private security company.

In November 2008, the municipality announced it would renovate the block of flats, as they were a health and safety hazard.

On Christmas day that year, 50 people were arrested when protests, also over water and electricity cuts, turned violent at the building.

However Chauke said no alternative accommodation had been provided for them so they had nowhere else to go.

The African People’s Convention responded to the protests in support of the residents but said at the same time it condemned the violence that accompanied it.

“The so called illegal occupation of flats in that area does not necessarily mean the municipality should not provide residents with water and sanitation,” it said in a statement.

Police were not immediately available for comment.

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