NMB cry for housing aid after Walmer protest truce

Luyolo Mkentane

THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is appealing to the Eastern Cape and national governments for help to tackle the massive housing backlog which led to two days of violent protests by thousands of residents from Walmer township this week.

After a night of intense negotiations between mayor Zanoxolo Wayile, senior councillors, ANC regional leaders and community leaders from Walmer township, the riots were called off yesterday morning with a promise that the municipality would come up with a detailed plan to provide housing, electricity and sanitation to Walmer and other poor communities.

The municipality has been given until the first week of next month to come back to residents with the plan.

To address the housing backlog, the metro needs R11.4-billion – almost five times the provincial human settlements budget for 2012/13 – to build 92000 needed houses at R120000 per serviced house.

The metro has 88 informal settlements and 49000 backyard dwellers.

For two days residents went on the rampage, burning tyres and blocking roads until Wednesday afternoon when ANC regional chairman Nceba Faku intervened and together with Wayile led negotiations with the residents which carried on from Wednesday evening until 7am yesterday.

“We sympathise with the residents. We have committed ourselves to work with a team representing them,” Wayile said.

“We held talks with them on Wednesday night until 7am. The situation was quite volatile. We agreed that a rapid response team of senior municipal managers would be formed to look at the Walmer issue.”

Wayile’s spokesman, Luncedo Njezula, said the heads of department for infrastructure and engineering (Andile Mfunda), public health (Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni) and human settlements (Fikile Desi) would form part of the rapid response team to look at the issue.

“We will also draw officials from other directorates depending on what the issues [that need to be attended to] are,” Njezula said.

Wayile said they would send a clarion call to both provincial and national governments to explain that they could not carry the service delivery backlog alone.

“We will engage robustly with all the stakeholders we feel are needed to address the backlog issue [in the metro].”

Wayile said some of the issues raised by the community such as housing and access to health fell under the provincial departments of human settlements and health.

He said acquiring additional land for housing development in Walmer township was also a major challenge.

“We have agreed to meet again in the first week of July to give a progress report on what we have done to try to address these issues,” he said.

Walmer township resident Prof Mtyaleka said they would wait and see if the municipality would really come back to them in July.

“We have suspended the protest action temporarily. But there will be no turning back if they fail to respond to us by July. We will go back to the streets. This is the only language they understand in South Africa these days,” Mtyaleka said.

On Tuesday morning residents took to the streets, blocking the suburb’s main roads with burning tyres and causing major traffic disruptions.

After failed attempts by Desi and Chabula-Nxiweni to address residents that day, the protests intensified on Wednesday and clashes left two policemen and a security guard injured.

Protesters also burnt down a house and trashed and burnt building equipment from two construction companies working in the area.

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