Chaos on Soweto streets as protests continue

Hundreds of dwellers from an informal settlement within the Protea South area in Soweto began protesting against a lack of housing, sanitation and electricity in the early hours on Thursday morning.

They barricaded Soweto’s largest street, Chris Hani Drive and N12 intersection, looted and vandalised shops from a nearby shopping mall and toppled almost all robots on the main road.

The protest continued into Friday. 

"The MEC for housing said they would address us personally on June 2 to give us an update of when our houses will be built. No one has been to address us, so this is our way of addressing them," said Nomvula Zicishe, who shares a shack with her six children and two relatives.

“They said no to (speaking to) a councillor; they want somebody higher than that,” Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela told Sapa on Thursday. Residents said they want to hear from Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane on poor service delivery in the area.

So far 22 people have been arrested and some were injured when police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd on Thursday. However the protestors were not backing down and the growing crowd have repeatedly charged at police since the protests began on Thursday.

“The crowd initially dispersed but now they are coming back in larger numbers,” Makhubela said.

The SABC reported that roads in the area were re-opened on Friday. Those in custody "will be appearing at the Protea magistrate court on Monday facing charges for malicious damage to property, vandalising of a shop and looting and also for public violence,” said Makhubela.

Passing motorists and neighbours returning from work were attacked, as locals claimed that they were not being supportive. Members of Julius Malema's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) from Gauteng joined the movement, arriving on Thursday afternoon and making a re-appearance on Friday, in what they said was solidarity with the impoverished community. 

The informal settlement is a dense space, with hundreds of shacks in close proximity and little resources by way of toilets and electricity. Up the road, separated by a shopping mall, lies Protea South; an elite and stylish neighbourhood made up of well-maintained houses, fenced off from the road.

"Our councillor lives in that luxury. It is easy to see why services are taking a lifetime for us. It is hard to trust the government, hence we have to resort to these measures just to be heard," said Zicishe.

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Khuthala Nandipha
Khuthala Nandipha is a journalist for the Mail & Guardian. This involves writing about various social issues that develop and change on an hourly basis. Her interests are, in a nutshell, how South Africa and the world’s revolution affect the person on the street: “the forgotten voting citizens”, as she calls them. She loves writing, and taking photos as a way to complement her stories. She grew up on the south-east coast of East London in the Eastern Cape. She studied journalism at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. She is not new to Jo’burg, having spent the first eight years of her journalism career working for various newspapers and magazines there.

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