/ 9 September 2011

Residents up in arms over shooting

Residents Up In Arms Over Shooting

Residents of the Thembelihle informal settlement, south of Johannesburg, are again up in arms following allegations that the police used live ammunition to break up their protests.

Loyiso Baloyi (24) was shot in the groin and admitted to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital on Wednesday, his brother David said. He said the cartridge from a live bullet was found outside his brother’s shack.

“He was shot on Tuesday night at around 11pm but, because of the unrest, we could not find transport to take him to hospital until 8am on the next day,” he said. “I feel sad because I never thought such a thing could happen to him,” Baloyi said.

The shooting followed protests by enraged residents of the informal settlement who were demanding improved service delivery.

But police spokesperson Lieu­tenant Colonel Katlego Mogale denied the allegation, saying Thembelihle residents had shot at the police on Monday using live ammunition. The police had cartridges to prove this, she said, but no one had been arrested.

Mogale said that three residents were hit by rubber bullets fired by the police on Tuesday night, after they stoned police in the settlement. “One was shot in the thigh and two on the upper body,” she said.

Residents should lodge a formal complaint if they felt aggrieved, she said.

The spokesperson for the Thembelihle Crisis Committee, Bhayiza Miya, said residents would intensify their protests because of Baloyi’s shooting. Miya said they had planned to demonstrate outside Protea Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday, where 18 protesters were facing charges of public violence, but police had prevented them from gathering. Miya said they had wanted to show their support “in the same way ANC members did during President Jacob Zuma’s rape trial”.

On Tuesday, the Mail & Guardian visited Thembelihle and heard residents’ accounts of “unbearable” living conditions.

“I was born here in 1987,” said Anna Njele. Since then, “instead of getting better, things are just getting worse”. The only signs of progress, she said, were a few taps and some dilapidated toilets.

“When they service a toilet six streets from here you can sense the smell,” Njele said. “We are getting sick because of this. We are crying because we were born in the shacks, and now we have our own kids here.”

Electricity tops the list of demands.

“We want electricity because we arrive at school smelling of paraffin. We are tired of being made fun of,” said a 16-year-old who is in grade 11.

Two streets from Njele’s home another resident, who wanted to be identified only as Nokuphumla, lives with her two children. She, too, wants electricity above all.

“We also want to be like the Indians,” she said, referring to the population of neighbouring Lenasia.

Those in Thembelihle who do have electricity get it illegally by connecting to street lights. But most still use a combination of candles, gas, coal and firewood to meet every day needs.

“In winter, it’s cold. Shacks are cold, my brother,” said Njele.

She added that this winter “six or seven shacks” had burnt down because of “unsafe” paraffin stoves.

On Tuesday afternoon Gauteng housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi tried to address the community in a bid to end the protest. But his speech fell on deaf ears. Cries of “Ugesi, ugesi, ugesi” (“Electricity, electricity, electricity”) drowned out his attempt to explain the government’s position.

Using a loudspeaker Mmemezi said Thembelihle was a dolomitic area, which was unsuitable for housing. Residents would be moved to the nearby area of Lehae, where electrified houses were being built for them, he said.

But Janice Ndarala, ANC ward councillor for the area, said she thought protesters would not compromise, and she was “really confused” about how to solve the deadlock.