Residents resort to protests after the City failed them

Community member cleans up the street after the protest.
Khayelitsha, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Khayelitsha has experienced two major protests recently and both had something in common. The government failed to engage the community resulting in a breakdown in relations with the City of Cape Town’s Human Settlement portfolio. The residents of section 37 in Makhaza blockaded Baden Powell Drive with burning tyres, demanding that the City and Eskom invest in electricity infrastructure and install electricity to a number of houses that were built near Kuyasa rail station, Khayelitsha. According to the residents, Eskom has refused to install the cables citing that the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) has instructed them not to install any electricity cable near the station. The land where the houses were built belongs to PRASA.

A community member in the area, Thulani Lupuzi said that they started protesting early this month after the City and Eskom told them that they were not going to receive electricity due to the refusal by PRASA for Eskom to install electricity cables that would connect the houses near the Metro Rail Station. “We have been given a run around by the city of Cape Town and Eskom. There are 148 houses built near the train station but were told that they would not get electricity. We demand that those people who are located near the station be moved to an alternative piece of land, but no, the city is not doing anything for the poor,” said Lupuzi.

On a visit by Elitsha, a pile of rubbish and burning tires were still visible on the Baden Powell Drive and Walter Sisulu Road in the area. We spoke to the people on the streets and they had different views on the protest by the residents of Section 37. One of the community members who chose to remain anonymous said that the protesters caused a big inconvenience to them and they were infuriated because they littered the area. While busy cleaning and putting out the burning tyres on Walter Sisulu Road, the resident said the tyre fumes was dangerous to his business and the kids who were playing in the streets because of the winter holidays. “These protesters are going to affect my business, I am selling food just across the road, but because of the dirt that is lying about in the road people are thinking twice about buying food from my ckitchen. These fumes are also dangerous and could be harmful to our kids,” he said.

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The protests ended with a confrontation with the police and six community members were arrested and have subsequently been released without a charge. Meanwhile, residents of S- section of Khayelitsha took to the streets in demand of houses. The protestors blocked Pama Road with tyres. The protest turned violent when the protestors stoned a bus, attacked a provincial government worker. Sonwabile Pakade, an activist in the area told Elitsha, that they have been engaged with the City of Cape Town Human Settlement portfolio on the issue of housing since 2010. Pakade accused the City of not giving them straight answers and that they keeps shifting the goal post.

According to him, with the pressure from the community, the city took steps to verify that the land they are occupying belongs to the city and it was confirmed that it does. The next step that the City took, he says, was to make people sign forms for houses to be built for the people. After this process, he claims that another person replaced the person that they were dealing with. The community, according to Sonwabile, was made to go through the same process with the new person and after the signing of forms the person was replaced again and after going through the same process with the current official, they were told that the official is on sick leave. “We then realised that the only way that they are going to pay attention to our demands would be to go on protest,” said Pakade.

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