Fire and fury after 'Malema Village' shacks demolished

The R75 road between Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage was a no-go area as people from Malema Village blocked main roads. They were burning tyres between the Chatty dip and KwaDwesi crossing as well as on the old Uitenhage road
The R75 road between Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage was a no-go area as people from Malema Village blocked main roads. They were burning tyres between the Chatty dip and KwaDwesi crossing as well as on the old Uitenhage road
Image: Eugene Coetzee

Hundreds of families living in the recently named “Malema Village” have been left homeless after Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality officials demolished their shacks yesterday, with police firing rubber bullets at anyone seen protesting.

The area resembled a war zone from early in the morning, with nearby roads blocked with burning tyres, rocks and other debris.

Most of the residents spent the day in running battles with police as they tried to stop the demolition of their recently built shacks on municipal land.

Police stopped the protests and the shacks were demolished by late yesterday afternoon.

Residents started marking parcels of the land for themselves with sticks from Saturday, with shacks going up early on Monday.

The land is in Ward 33 between Uitenhage and Chelsea roads.

Nontuthuzelo Mvakela, 42, was among the hundreds of residents who watched helplessly as their shacks were torn down.

“I am a grown woman. I just can’t continue to live at home with my three children,” she said.

“Where am I going to stay? It is painful and disappointing.”

Mvakela said she had spent R700 on materials for the shack.

Land invasions have gripped the country, with the municipalities in Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay struggling to stop them.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said last month those occupying land illegally should face the full might of the law.

The matter is at the heart of the EFF’s mantra for people to be unapologetic in their quest to take back the land.

EFF leader Julius Malema will appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrate’s Court to answer for allegedly contravening the Riotous Assemblies Act for inciting his supporters to invade land.

In 2014‚ he told the EFF’s elective conference in Bloemfontein: “We’re going to occupy the unoccupied land because we need land.

“For us to eat‚ we must have the land.

“For us to work‚ we must have the land.

“You must go and do the same in the branch where you come from.”

Residents of “Malema Village” said this was why they had named the area after him.

Several said they were originally from the surrounding areas of Izinyoka and Govan Mbeki and were tired of waiting for proper housing from the government.

During skirmishes with the police, residents threw stones at officers while seeking cover behind nearby RDP houses.

A 23-year-old resident, who declined to be named, said: “The municipality has officially declared war. We will torch everything travelling on Uitenhage Road.

“We will not sleep tonight. We will make this place ungovernable.”

He lost all his building materials and furniture when his shack was demolished on Wednesday night.

Jason Jack, 23, was among the residents injured when the police fired rubber bullets.

With his right leg bleeding, Jack said he had been inside a nearby church when he heard a commotion outside.

“I saw people running in all directions, but I got shot as I was coming outside,” he said.

“This is very painful. I have lost materials and now this. We will not move.”

Sizwe Aplan, 30, said he was distraught after losing R1 800 worth of building materials.

“I do not know where to go. My two children are like orphans.

“I have lost everything. I do not know where to sleep tonight,” Aplan said.

Municipal human settlements political head Nqaba Bhanga said it was the instruction of Ramaphosa to act against illegal land invasion.

“The land was designed for a particular purpose. We are just implementing what the president has said,” Bhanga said.

Police spokesman Captain Andre Beetge said everything was calm yesterday afternoon.

A motion tabled by the ANC in November, and passed by the majority in council, prevents the metro from seeking a court order to evict people from land without the council’s approval.

This comes after ANC councillor Rory Riordan submitted a motion that determined vacant land should be found for people evicted from Wells Estate last year.

The motion was approved by a majority in council on January 25.

City manager Johann Mettler said at the time that it was an incompetent motion as he had acted in accordance with council policy when seeking a court order.