Residents in the informal settlement denied that they were taking advantage of Armed Forces Day to attract attention
RESIDENTS in Homevalley, who complained that they were manhandled by members of the military police during a service delivery protest in Barkly Road yesterday, were instructed by municipal officials not to embarrass the city ahead of the Armed Forces Day celebrations, which will see dignitaries from across the country visiting Kimberley.
President Jacob Zuma is also expected to attend the event.
Barkly Road was strewn with rubble and stones yesterday and the Public Order Police and Roodepan police were called to the scene at around 5am.
A contingent of military vehicles and motorcycles, which were travelling at high speed with sirens blaring, stopped the traffic to disperse a second protest that flared up just before 10am.
Residents stated that innocent onlookers were intimidated by military police, who they say also threatened a physically disabled man who was riding past on his bicycle.
One of the protesters stated that he was pursued by several military police officers and their vans.
“The other protesters managed to run away, while I was assaulted with a baton and hit across my jaw. Afterwards, I was forced to clear the road of the rubble. We took the protest to the streets because we are sick and tired of waiting for answers to our problems.”
Residents in the informal settlement denied that they were taking advantage of Armed Forces Day to attract attention.
“Our homes are waterlogged and service delivery is non-existent, we will not be apologetic for our actions.”
One resident claimed that she was almost ridden over by a military police motorcycle and van.
“They are sleeping on thick mattresses while we are living in worse conditions than their dogs.”
Chairperson of the Human Settlements committee at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Obakeng Plaatjie, along with municipal officials who came to address the residents yesterday, advised them not to take their protest to the streets at any given opportunity.
“The Armed Forces Day event is starting this week, so let us not embarrass ourselves,” said Plaatjie.
“If you have a problem, we will solve it, our doors are always open. If residents cannot get hold of the councillor they must come to me. I cannot help if I do not know about the problem.”
He added that it was up to the residents to report incidents of crime and illegal occupants.
“The rain is an unforeseen circumstance. We will bring in engineers who will see if the stormwater drainage can be diverted. According to the councillor, there are 19 illegal people occupying shacks. Council was also informed that rapes, crimes, drug use and the sale of drugs is taking place in these illegal shacks. We will not hesitate to demolish these illegal shanties.”
Plaatjie requested the councillor to listen to the concerns of the community.
He also indicated that there are many other people on the waiting list for plots, who are desperate for land to erect their shanties.
“Those of you who have received land must co-operate with us. We will not settle people on ground that is not suitable for habitation. The soil has been tested.”
Residents complained that their roofs were leaking and that water was also seeping up from under the ground.
“We did not ask to come here and live under these inhumane conditions. We continually report problems to the councillor and the municipality and yet nothing is done to rectify it. The councillor is never available and never pays attention to our problems. Three trucks delivered sand to mop up the water and my house is still under water,” said one resident.
Another resident, Leander Jood, said that she arrived home on Sunday evening at around 11pm to find her shanty flooded.
“The water was ankle deep, all my furniture is damaged. Luckily my four-year-old daughter was at my mother’s house. The shanties were built on clay soil because there is no drainage. My children didn’t go to school this morning (yesterday) because it was too wet.”
Others complained that their roofs were collapsing, while the portable toilets were too dangerous to use at night.
“Women get raped there and people sell drugs in the portable toilets. It is not safe. The municipality comes once in a blue moon to empty the buckets. It is too far to collect water to wash our clothes and there are taps that are leaking for weeks now, which is flooding our shanties. We are suffering from chest problems and pneumonia from the damp.”
Police spokesperson, Sergeant Majang Skalkie, said that the road was cleared before 9am yesterday morning.
“Stones were used to barricade the road, which was closed due to protest action from around 5am. No arrests were made. The police are monitoring the situation, which is currently calm.”
The SA Air Force indicated that it needed the registration numbers of the military vehicles allegedly involved before they would be able to provide any comment.