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More protests flare over lack of services
Charles Molele Published:Jul 12, 2009 – The Times
‘They want to dump us in another slum without clean water, electricity or sanitation’
Huge shack settlement latest to ignite over government’s poor delivery record
“We are going nowhere,” yelled 34-year-old Selby Mukovhanama as he waved a panga in defiance of a government plan to dismantle the Diepsloot, Johannesburg, shack settlement he calls home.
His was just one face of the anger felt by those repeatedly left out when the government extends housing and services to another desperate community.
“They want to dump us in another slum without clean water, electricity and sanitation,” Mukovhanama said. “We are not going anywhere. If we do move, it must be to decent RDP houses.”
Last Sunday, Mukovhanama joined hundreds of residents protesting plans to relocate them to informal settlements in the region. They burned tyres and furniture, and barricaded roads with rocks. Several cars were stoned, and shops that belonged to Pakistani nationals were set alight and looted.
Community Policing Forum member Mahlatse Molobela laid part of the blame at the door of local ANC councillor Jan Mahlangu.
“During elections he came and made promises about clean water, electricity and roads. But now he is unavailable when we want to meet him and resolve these issues,” said Molobela.
Residents insist they have been told they must move, but on Friday the City of Johannesburg denied it wanted to relocate the residents.
The government has built about 4900 RDP houses in Diepsloot — now home to more than 150000 people.
Residents told the Sunday Times that since the government moved them from the banks of the Jukskei River in Alexandra as part of former president Thabo Mbeki’s Urban Renewal Project, officials had neglected the area.
Roads are in total disrepair and a putrid smell hangs in the air from the broken sewerage system. At Extension One, where the violent protests took place last Sunday, close to 100 residents, men and women share a single toilet that often does not work.
Taps are often dry and residents say the tanks provided by officials are contaminated.
“I won’t let my kids drink from that tank,” said Sam Makgoba. “ We need proper running water and modern sanitation.”
The Diepsloot protests were the latest in service delivery demonstrations which have surged around the country recently.
Last week, residents of Piet Retief in Mpumalanga went on the rampage after accusing the Mkhondo municipality of financial mismanagement, corruption in the allocation of housing, and a lack of basic services. Two protesters died during the protests. On Tuesday, angry residents in Dinokana near Zeerust, North West, took to the streets in a protest about water provision.
ANC spokesman Jessie Duarte denied that communities across the country were growing impatient with the government’s poor service delivery.
“We can’t generalise and say there’s unhappiness all around,” she said. “Where there are problems, we have provincial leaders and branches directly intervening and looking at the substance and nature of the problem.”