||Housing protests in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha set Cape Town ablaze today
(Monday 23 May 2005) as residents burned tires in Landsdowne Road,
Khayelitsha as well as Gugulethu. In Gugs, the whole of NY1, the
township thoroughfare, was blockaded every 100 metres with piles of
burning tires. Residents were expressing anger at the lack of services
delivery in terms of houses as well as water and electricity for
These protests follow similar actions over recent weeks in Port
Elizabeth, and have been further inflamed by the “N2 Gateway” housing
project that plans to build 16 000 houses in Cape Town in the coming
years. Long time shackdwellers and backyard residents are incensed that
residents of shacks that burned down in the Joe Slovo informal
settlement in Langa are going to be housed before people who waited for
housing much longer than them.
The surface story of rivalry over a waiting list, however, hides a much
deeper vein of anger that comes from grievances that today, 10 years
after the first democratic elections in South Africa, people still have
to be exploited by backyard-landlords, walk kilometers for water even in
the cities and shit in a hole in the ground (or a bucket). Town 2
residents graphically illustrated their discontent today when they
dumped the excrement from their buckets in the house of Ward Councillor
Phakamile Kula. Burning barricades of tyres were met with force by the
South African Police Services and City Police, with 15 residents being
Similar force was used to disperse any sign of residents gathering in
Gugulethu. A group of visiting journalists who were greeted with stun
grenades fired by SAPS when a crowd gathered around them (one journalist
was hit in the leg). This violent reaction did little to stem the
protest, whose amorphous nature can maybe be summed up by the fact that
‘the committee’ co-ordinating the mounds of burning tyres and rubbish as
yet doesn’t have a name. As an organization, though, it has undergone a
baptism of fire, first organizing a protest that aspired to block one of
Cape Town’s major highways, the N2, and now facing the protest of 20
comrades arrested, another at least 20 injured, and a township that
feels like a warzone.
“We are non-violent” Sandile (*) from the committee told us, and
amazingly, in a township where protest has generally meant stone
throwing and the destruction of government and commercial vehicles, he
was right. The uneven battle between police and residents was marked by
violence only from the police side – otherwise, it was a game of running
and ducking, staying one step ahead of the “authorities”. On Saturday,
Wallace Mgoqi, the Cape Town city manager and formed land claims
commissioner, was booed out of a collective meeting where he came to
address the land occupations that have been happening over the weekend.
There is a sense in which the state has lost all initiative, and again,
in Gugulethu, this is momentous. This is historic ANC heartland, and the
scale of these protests, the drubbing of Mgoqi, the obvious support that
the residents offered to the protestors (could a distinction even be
drawn?) marks a shift whose ramifications no doubt are causing sleepless
Also in Gugulethu today were a few individuals from Cuban Heights, the
land occupation in Lavender Hill that has set a record of its own. You
see, Lavender Hill is a “coloured” settlement, and there hasn’t been a
land occupation here since the 1980s. Not even in the heady days of the
early 1990s did residents simply seize that for which they were told to
wait. Today’s events in Gugulethu put a lie to the notion that recent
housing protests in Cape Town were racially motivated affairs of
“coloureds” angry that they were being ignored in favour of “Africans”.
Harrismith, Inanda Road, Masiphumele, Kennedy Road… the names trip off
the tongue, one after another, the names of roads blockaded, linked to
communities that are ‘gatvol’. A many headed hydra, something that not
even the demons of the “ultra left” “new social movements” can be
blamed. These are the people by the side of the highway, the backyard
dwellers, the shack dwellers, the uncountables, the invisibles, the ones
that the BMWs and Pick ‘n Pay trucks drive past every day and ignore.
Yet, today, there was a war. No one’s going to ignore that!
* not his real name
Arrests in Gugs yesterday: total 46
According to a comrade from Gugulethu, 46 comrades will be appearing in
Athlone Magistrates Court today after being arrested during the housing
protests yesterday. This is in addition to comrades who appeared in
court yesterday after the weekend's arrests. At this point, the
community has no lawyer to assist them, so as Cape Town comrades we are
looking to solve this problem ASAP.
In addition to the arrests in Gugulethu, there were at least 15 arrests
in Town 2. The charges are likely to be public violence, arson, etc.
Police fire on city protesters
Cape Times May 24, 2005
Anger over lack of delivery
By Quinton Mtyala
Incensed at not having received flush toilets, other services and houses 11
years into the new SA, angry residents have emptied nightsoil buckets on a
busy Khayelitsha thoroughfare.
They put up burning barricades as the police fired rubber bullets to break
up their protests yesterday.
The police say they were stoned from behind the barricades. Several people
were wounded when the police and city police fired rubber bullets.
Mbuyiseli Peter said he was shot in the leg while visiting a friend in the
street where people were toyi-toying. "The police were aggressive and shot
at people indiscriminately."
Police had not received reports of injuries, said spokesman Billy Jones. There were similar protests in Gugulethu last night.
Premier Ebrahim Rasool said the police were determined to restore order and those who continued to defy the law would have to face the consequences.
"I have been very concerned since Friday night about events in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha, where we have seen burning tyres, barricades, marches and other actions," he said.
"These do not belong in a democratic society in which people have avenues for the legitimate expression of grievances.
"On Saturday afternoon I was in Khayelitsha, where I visited some of the affected areas, spoke to residents and saw at first hand the burning barricades and the illegal marches."
Protests in the "SST section" of Khayelitsha began on Friday with residents - claiming the area's councillor had reneged on a promise to
provide a waterborne sewerage system and other services - burning tyres and blocking Lansdowne Road.
On Saturday, Rasool had an emergency meeting with members of the community,
but yesterday they were back on the streets, blocking Lansdowne Road and emptying nightsoil buckets and refuse on the streets.
Jongikhaya Vanto, who lives in the area, said last night that the councillor, Phakamile Kula, had made numerous promises, but nothing had been done.
"He promised that things would improve here - but look, we still don't have toilets or any drainage and with the winter rain, the place will be flooded," said Vanto.
Kula could not be reached for comment.
Said Rasool: "My appeal to the residents of Khayelitsha is that while their grievances may be legitimate, we cannot deal with them through)illegitimate actions.
"I am warning that in no way should our sympathy for grievances around housing, services and amenities be interpreted as condoning illegal actions. The police will have no option but to restore order - and only then can the government enter into discussions about the problems.
"This government has shown... that not only does it have the will, but increasingly it has the capacity to roll out the delivery of housing, of
services, of safety and even employment.
"But we will not be held hostage to burning barricades and illegal marches."
On The Web