Uprising for services

Strandfontein Road was closed on Thursday July 27 because of protests.

After violent protests erupted in Phumlani Village and Riemvasmaak near Lotus River last week, stakeholders came together on Friday July 28 to discuss a list of demands to pave a way forward.

At least two people were arrested on Thursday July 27 after protests along Strandfontein Road, from about 4am.

Protesters burnt tyres, destroyed road signs and looted stores at the Shoprite Centre in Pelican Park, Pick * Pay in Lotus River and set a petrol station in Lotus River alight.

Phumlani Village and Riemvasmaak informal settlement residents demanded their concerns about housing, service delivery and other issues be addressed. Representatives of civic associations from both areas have, however, said the violence was brought on by “rogue elements”.

Community leader and chairperson of the Riemvasmaak Civic Association, Sidwell Kweba, said the protest was held to get the attention of the City of Cape Town but wasn’t meant to turn violent.

“All we wanted was for our concerns to be heard and acted upon. People are angry and hurt and they want answers and action. We are being treated like dogs having to live next to horrible stenches, the drainage system is blocked, there are dumpsites on our doorsteps and we have to live like this every day, it is unconstitutional and inhumane,” said Mr Kweba.

On Friday July 28, stakeholders had a meeting at Sub-council 18 with mayoral committee member for area south, Eddie Andrews; Sub-council 18 chairperson Shanen Rossouw, ward councillor Gerry Gordon and several officials from various City departments.

Peter Mkonyani, chairperson for Phumlani Village Civic Association, Mr Kweba and legal representative attorney Vernon Seymour, presented a list of demands including starting an independent investigation into alleged corruption in the allocation of houses in New Horizons and asking that 30 percent of residents from Phumlani and Riemvasmaak who are on the waiting list be considered for houses at the new housing development in Ottery.

“The community who has been living in Phumlani and Riemvasmaak for decades were not considered for housing in Pelican Park because there is corruption and people who got houses are subsequently renting them out while we are living in squalor,” said Mr Kweba.

Other demands include a development plan for upgrades of roads, play areas, recreational areas, lights and other services and the cleaning and unblocking of sewerage systems.

Peter Mgutyana said daily reports are made of blocked drains and dumping issues in the area but claims the City only respond a few days later.

He added that there were not proper facilities for residents to dispose of their dirt. Officials at the meeting said cleaning takes place daily in both Phumlani Village and Riemvasmaak but illegal dumping takes place again immediately after an area is cleaned.

Another demand was that ward 67 councillor Gerry Gordon resign.

“The councillor doesn’t care. There’s no communication from her side, we are suffering but she doesn’t care about what happened in Phumlani Village and Riemvasmaak. She has only visited the area once in February to introduce herself, we spoke about our concerns but nothing was done about it,” said Mr Kweba.

Mr Andrews, who chaired the meeting, said residents who have concerns about the ward councillor have to report it to their sub-council so that claims can be investigated. “We have taken note of the matters that were raised and we addressed those that we could but we will have a debriefing and in a month to discuss the way forward,” said Mr Andrews.

The conclusion of the meeting was that there would be a site visit to the areas and issues such as cleaning would be addressed immediately. A follow up meeting will be held the end of August.

Grassy Park police station commander Captain Shawn van Wyk confirmed that a case of public violence was opened and is being investigated and that two men aged 29 and 42 were arrested.

Police used rubber bullets, stun grenades and a water cannon to disperse the crowd last week Thursday.