Some Motherwell residents boycott Freedom Day celebrations

Shack and backyard dwellers choose rather to protest over housing

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Photo of protesters in Motherwell
Shack and backyard dwellers in Motherwell decided to stage a housing protest on Freedom Day. Photo: Joseph Chirume

About 100 Motherwell residents decided to boycott yesterday’s Freedom Day celebrations, and stage a housing protest instead.

While thousands of people gathered at the Wolfson stadium in Kwazakhele, where ANC regional heavyweights were addressing thousands of people,the shackdwellers were engaged in running battles with the police.

They protested against lack of housing delivery.They said there was nothing to celebrate for when they were still living in shacks two decades after freedom.

The shackdwellers and backyard residents, from five Motherwell wards, blocked the Addo road near Ikhamvelihle. Some broke away from the group and set tyres alight at Crossroads taxi rank and Dolweni taxi rank. They were singing and brandishing stones and sticks.

The protesters, most of them unemployed, called on the municipality to honour a 2011 agreement about house delivery.

They vowed not to vote in the August municipal elections if their demands were not met.

They were dispersed by the Motherwell police who used teargas and threatened to arrest the leaders if they persisted.

The protesters then formed a long single file to the empty NU 11 stadium. They gathered outside the stadium and chose three people to address the press on condition that their names were not published.

One said the residents were members of the South African National Civic Organisation, Sanco. She said residents in four wards were being sidelined during housing allocation and the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality must honour an agreement of 2011, which set down that the five Motherwell wards would share equally in the housing.

“We held the meeting in 2011 at the Motherwell Police station. It was agreed then that the wards would each have 50 residents allocated houses in NU 29.But it appears that ward 54 has had 200 of its shack dwellers and backyard residents allocated their houses. What about us?”

Another speaker said: “We will not vote in any election unless they give us houses. Today is Freedom Day, but we are still protesting for land and houses. This protest should not be happening.”

The speaker said the head of the municipality’s housing portfolio committee Nomvusilelo Tonsi, was always too busy to listen to them.

“What we want now is Mayor Danny Jordaan,” said another speaker. “He should address us and show us a place to live.”

Tonsi could not be reached by telephone.

Ward 54 councillor Thembile Ngosiyepansi said he was tired of the group’s demands. He said they should follow peaceful channels and work through their councillors..

“The only people who can help them are us, their councillors, but some of them are just arrogant and violent.The process of housing allocation is an ongoing one.The land for new houses is being prepared for them but some of them are impatient.”

Meanwhile Sanco Nelson Mandela Bay regional chairperson Mxolisi Mani distanced the organisation from the protest.

“It was not Sanco but some disgruntled residents who protested. We don’t terrorise our communities and violence is not our weapon,” Mani said.

Motherwell cluster police spokesperson Mncedi Mbombo said no-one had been arrested.

TOPICS:  Government Housing

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