Gugs leaders call for housing opportunities

Various streets in Guguleluthu were barricaded by stones and heavy objects when the residents staged a protest a weeks ago in their quest to occupy vacant land.

Calm might have returned to Gugulethu after several days of mayhem, but that could be short-lived if authorities don’t deal adequately with matters relating to the unrest, community leaders Melvin Tshabalala has warned.

He blamed the government, mainly the City of Cape Town and mayor Patricia de Lillle, for the chaos that erupted in the neighbourhood.

In an unprecedented move, Gugulethu residents ran amok last week, barricading key intersections, such as the corner of NY1 and NY108, NY 108 and NY 6, NY5 and NY 6, both entrances into NY 1, among others.

Some schools were forced to close as a result of the protest during which angry residents forcefully occupied vacant pieces of land next to the Gugulethu post office in NY112. They also claimed the site of the old Uluntu Centre, in NY108, while damage to property at the popular eatery, Mzoli’s, and other parts of the area was also reported. In the aftermath of the protest, most roads were still inaccessible towards the end of the week and at the beginning of this week. Rocks and other heavy objects still lay on NY1, and damaged robots opposite Gugulethu police station bore testimony to the chaos.

Motorists had to exercise extra caution as they negotiated their way around the rubble.

“We are not done, we have gone back to the drawing board,” said Mr Tshabalala.

He said the uprising was a show of their unhappiness about the lack of development in the area, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.

Since 1996, two years after the “so-called freedom”, Mr Tshabalala said, Gugulethu residents had pleaded with government “not to forget us”.

More than 20 years later, he said their calls had fallen on deaf ears.

At the centre of their displeasure, he said, was the lack of housing opportunities for the backyarders.

While his 29-year-old son and a 48-year-old brother had no place to stay, 14-year-olds received houses from the government, he complained.

He also charged that Gugulethu had pensioners who stayed in backyards, and had waited patiently on government to give them houses. But because they were peaceful, their cries were not heard.

“We are disrespected by the authorities because we are quiet,” he said. He added that they had observed the development of other areas as well as the provision of services. “There has been none of that in Gugulethu,” he said.

He said planting of trees along NY1 had been the only development in Gugulethu and that the only language government understood was violence and protests.

He said areas that came into being recently got government support because they made noise.

He told Vukani that the mayor’s spokesperson, Xolani Koyana, had said the mayor had had engagements with the leaders, and had been upfront with them about land invasions.

“There can be no justification for what some individuals have done in Gugulethu,” said Mr Koyana. The issues raised will not be solved through violence. The violence has to stop before the can be any further engagements.”

He added that in a meeting with community representatives, a decision to register backyarders had been agreed upon and that the community had also been asked to elect a leadership that would engage the mayor.

He condemned the vandalism and damage to property. “We respect the right to protest and this should be done in a peaceful manner,” said Mr Koyana.