Port Elizabeth residents torch vehicles in housing protest

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality commits to building homes for Westville residents

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Photo of burnt bus
Westville informal settlement residents torched a truck and a bus while protesting for houses and other services this week. Photo Joseph Chirume

About 300 residents of Westville near Kwadwesi in Port Elizabeth blockaded part of a busy intersection with tyres and large concrete pipes on Thursday. This follows nearly a week of protests over housing.

Residents are demanding that houses be built in the area and vital services such as water, electricity and tarred roads be provided. They claim these were promised to them nearly 20 years ago. The Westville informal settlement was established in 2000 by people who did not benefit from the Kwadwesi housing project nearby.

Earlier this week, police said that a bus and a truck were torched by protesting residents on Tuesday night. Protesters also barricaded roads in the area with burning tyres and concrete pipes.

On Thursday, police monitored protesters closely as they gathered in the streets.

A protester who refused to give her name said, “There are more than 5,000 people who live in this settlement. Most of us arrived here in 2000. Our shacks were demolished that year by the municipality. We then rebuilt the shacks.”

The woman said that officials from the municipality at the time had promised to supply the informal settlement with taps and electricity, but failed to do so. “We have had numerous meetings with the municipality and we learnt that there is an annual budget meant for ward 36, with Westville included. Where is that money going to when there is no development taking place?” she asked.

Residents said that emergency vehicles have difficulty accessing the settlement as there are no tarred roads. They also still use buckets for toilets.

A man who identified himself as Rasta said that they would continue protesting until they were addressed by Mayor Athol Trollip or Mayco Member for Human Settlements, Nqaba Bhanga.

“Other informal settlements like Joe Slovo in Kwadwesi and Ramaphosa in Motherwell have been developed with houses. We don’t have schools, clinics or shops. We go to clinics in Kwadwesi and Kwanoxolo,” he said.

Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality mayoral spokesperson, Sibongile Dimbaza, said “We are concerned with the plight of the residents of Westville. We held a community meeting on 27 June. We explained to residents that the plan to build houses has been approved by the provincial government through the Housing Development Agency. We will continue engaging them.”

TOPICS:  Housing

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