Motorists under threat in protest

Lynn Williams

PANDEMONIUM broke out in Timothy Valley in Port Elizabeth yesterday when hundreds of residents embarked on a massive housing protest.

Angry residents burnt tyres, wood and rubbish and cordoned off roads with buckets, bricks and logs.

The protest started at 3am. By 8am more than 10 roads in the area had been barricaded with burning tyres, making it impossible for motorists to move freely in and out of the area.

The Crime Combating Unit and SAPS members from the Bethelsdorp police station were dispatched to the scene.

Police fired rubber bullets and used tear gas to disperse the angry crowds, who pelted police nyalas with stones whenever they approached.

As smoke billowed in the air protestors sang freedom songs and voiced their anger towards the municipality. Some said they were unhappy because they were forced to live in “shoddy” RDP homes. Promises to fix their homes were made years ago, they said.

Others said even though they had been promised homes they were still living in shacks, while housing developments in Jacksonville and Kleinskool proceeded without a hitch.

“For years our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. How many times must we beg you to listen and do something about our concerns,” Wendell Johnson said.

Florence Ligman said her RDP home was in a state of disrepair. “The doors do not lock, window panes and other fittings are broken and the toilet does not flush. When it rains my furniture floats,” she said.

When there was no sign of any municipal officials by noon, protesters blocked the section of Stanford Road leading to and from Booysen Park.

This caused a huge traffic jam as vehicles could not move in either direction.

“Turn around or have your car smashed. Your temporary inconvenience is nothing compared to our troubles,” one protester said.

Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the Timothy Valley RDP housing project fell under the mandate of the provincial Housing Department.

Eastern Cape Human Settlements spokesman Lwandile Sicwetsha said the department would look into the matter. “We are aware of the problems and the residents’ unhappiness. Officials will be sent in to deal with the matter. In the meantime, we want to urge people not to burn or damage property. If they do that, they will have to deal with the law.”

Residents did not indicate whether their protest action would continue today.

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