The situation was back to normal in Langa yesterday, Wednesday September 21, following a day of mayhem, when all the roads leading into and out of the area were shut down by angry residents.
On Tuesday, Cape Town’s oldest black township was plunged into choas as residents barricaded the roads with burning tyres.
Among their demands were for better houses, proper sanitation and water, electricity and playing fields for their children.
They also want the informal settlements to be formalised and the development of zones 16,17, 18, 25, 26 and 29, as well as the hostels.
The area remained volatile with police and other law enforcement agencies keeping an eye on protesting residents who had occupied Hamilton Naki Square, refusing to move.
Even the helicopter hovering above Langa, throwing teargas into the crowds did nothing to disperse those who had gathered.
Schools and businesses were forced to shut down, people could not go to work and Langa post office was burnt down.
Community leader Xolani Malizibuye said the protests would continue as long as they did not get the answers they were looking for.
He said they had met with various government officials, including mayor Patricia De Lille and the local councillor, >>NAME??<< who promised to develop the area but nothing happened.
He appealed to the national government to intervene. “We are saying it is unacceptable to live the life we live. This is like a zoo. There are three families in one shack or room in the hostels. This means we cannot make love with our wives because there is no privacy. We cannot properly discipline our children. All we need is dignity,” he said.
Mr Malizibuye said issues pertaining to housing and sanitation had been on the agenda since 2011.
“We will continue with this until they give us proper answers. If they say there is no money to build us houses we will understand. But if they are talking about the land and building space, we will show them the space. Things cannot stay as they are in Langa. We need development,” he said.
Resident, Siyabulela Hokisi, described living conditions in the informal settlements as “pathetic”. He said most shacks were small, and parents had to share a room with children.
He said in some shacks families had to accommodate other families as well.
“People cannot live like this. This is beyond bad. Children have no playing grounds. We need to fight the system to the bitter end. We refuse to live like this,” he said.
In the meantime, the City has condemned the violent protests, saying they had been led by a group with whom the City had already been engaging.
It said the protest had affected service delivery and the ability of the community at large to perform their daily responsibilities safely.
“We have been engaging with the leadership from the Langa Zones and hostel and they were made aware that other areas will also need to benefit from the Hostel Transformation Programme,” said the City’s mayoral committee member for human settlements, Benedicta van Minnen.
“They, however, are of the opinion that all of the hostels in Langa should be upgraded first, before the programme is rolled out to other areas,” she said.
Ms Van Minnen said during the engagements, the City indicated to the community that the provision of more housing opportunities in Langa would be considered once the planned projects were completed.
She said the scale of violence and destructive behaviour would not be tolerated.
“The group is essentially asking the City to prioritise their interests ahead of others in a similar situation. They have demanded further upgrades to the hostels in Langa. The City has explained that Langa has already benefitted from the conversion of some of the hostels into family units as well as the completion of Phase 1 of the Langa Hostels Community Residential Units (i.e. Hamilton Naki Square), with Phase 2 on its way,” she said.
Ms Van Minnen said to date 463 families who were living in the New Flats and Special Quarters hostels and in the Siyahlala informal settlement in Langa have benefitted from the redress programme and moved into their homes in December 2015.
She added that forms part of the City’s plan to develop a total of 1 300 community residential units within Langa over the next three years.
She added that the City was aware of the greater need to transform more hostels in other areas in Cape Town such as Gugulethu and Nyanga, but it was not possible to transform all of them at the same time as the roll-out needed to be done systematically and according to approved budgeted plans.