Hermanus protests: 'We have been waiting for houses for 20 years'

MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela promises land will be made available for Zwelihle backyarders

Hermanus protests: 'We have been waiting for houses for 20 years'

There are rows of newly-built houses, with windows smashed in and doors ripped out in Swartdam Road, Zwelihle.

Behind a group of foot soldiers, holding the rubble-strewn frontline of Hermanus, smoke billows from the still-smouldering waste centre in Mbeki Road – a signal to all entering the town that the residents of Zwelihle are not happy.

"We have been renting here for 20 years, waiting for a house," said one woman angrily. "I was on a waiting list. I was next," a woman says, pointing at the small units over the road.

"Now somebody else gets the house."

Another man shouts: "There is a man who is selling their house. It is corruption.

"We have been waiting a long time, living in backyards."

To gain attention, because they felt nobody was listening, they started setting up shacks on vacant land on Thursday last week.

They marched to the council and demanded that they be supplied with water and lights.

Instead, the Red Ants and police moved them off the ground they were occupying.

After that, a municipal office and satellite police station were burnt down and concrete blocks, wire and burning tyres were set up to limit access to the roads.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a security official says some spaza shops were looted on Monday night.

He says he was injured in clashes with the residents, before limping off.

Meanwhile, a worker at an abalone farm waits at a distance, wondering whether it is safe to cross the frontline to get to work.

"They burnt a car there at the beach club," he says.

Western Cape Housing MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela is expected to address the community later on Tuesday at a meeting in the town.

However, according to another annoyed resident, there are separate groups protesting to highlight other issues.

"Come and look at the toilets we have to use, the way we have to live," he said.

This is a developing story.



Hermanus protests: 'Amaparapara behind violence, vandalism'

A community member who has been part of the protests in Hermanus has blamed "drug addicts" for the violence that gripped the coastal town on Monday.

Speaking to News24 outside a gutted library, Masibulele Jimlongo said before starting the protest, the community had decided as a collective not to destroy property.

"We decided that we will never break a school and a library, but there are what we call amaparapara who break the library," he said adding that the addicts were the ones responsible for the vandalism of property and were hiding behind the community's genuine grievances.

Hermanus has been gripped by protests that started on Thursday and came to a head on Monday. A satellite police station was set alight, a library gutted and spaza shops looted.

Meanwhile chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police Francois Beukman said in a statement the torching of police stations was high treason. He called for the "highest sanction possible" against those who committed these crimes.

"We call on the leaders in all communities to direct their members to ensure that the infrastructure and facilities of the SAPS do not become the target of criminals and arsonists. Police stations are there to serve all citizens and should never be used as a tool for short-term gain," he said.



Hermanus backyarders to get land, MEC announces

Land will be made available for Zwelihle backyarders, Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela promised protesting residents on Tuesday.

Madikizela made the announcement at a community meeting at the local sports field where about 2 000 people had gathered.

While no houses could be promised yet, he said they had reached an agreement to provide land to residents as a first step.

Community leader Masibulele Jimlongo said they were very happy with this progress.

"We are excited. That is the response we had hoped for," he said.

"Now [that] we've got the land, we will assist to make sure the right beneficiaries get [it]."

Hermanus has been gripped by protests that started on Thursday and came to a head on Monday. A satellite police station was set alight, a library gutted and spaza shops looted.

Earlier on Tuesday, Madikizela had met with community representatives at the Overstrand municipal offices, where he acknowledged that there were problems with the housing list.

He suggested that it be audited and that the backyarders form a committee to set out grievances, and a task list.

He said there was also the possibility that the new annual budget, which comes into effect on Sunday, could be reprioritised.

However, the dilemma is that there are different "categories" of backyard dwellers - people who build or rent cramped structures at the back of an existing small house or shack.

Their ability to get on to a housing list or get a housing subsidy, depends on what they earn, Madikizela said.

He would not indicate where the land earmarked for the backyarders would be, to prevent attempts to occupy it.

The national and provincial government had agreed to "find the money" for the erven, which had already been identified.

The site would first have to be pegged and basic services installed, he explained.

The process would start on April 1, when the new financial year commences.

A backyard dwellers task team would be formed to count how many homes will be needed and to validate who the rightful recipients of land would be, Madikizela confirmed.