HUNDREDS of angry protesters burnt tyres, blockaded roads and hurled rocks at police in Uitenhage’s KwaNobuhle yesterday in the latest wave of service delivery protests to rock Nelson Mandela Bay.
Eight people were arrested for public violence and two cases of arson are being investigated after the offices of two councillors were razed. Police managed to stop an attempt to burn down the home of one of the councillors.
Protesters were frustrated after empty promises of land by councillors. The land was seen as a way for thousands of backyard dwellers to stop paying rent to the home owners whose yards they have been living in.
Hundreds of protestors, all in small groups, erected blockades using fire, rocks and tyres, in order to keep police out.
Three attempts were made to hurl petrol bombs at police.
By yesterday evening Uitenhage police had dispatched five armoured vehicles to disperse the crowds. A police helicopter and fire engine also arrived.
The incident started when councillor Thembisile Gana’s office in Mondile Street was set alight yesterday morning. Later councillor Nomsa Booi’s office in Tize Street was also set alight, said police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Marianette Olivier.
"The Rocklands Road running past KwaNobuhle was also closed. As soon as the police arrived at the scene the crowds dispersed into the township,” she said.
Two policemen were slightly injured when protesters hurled rocks. Police were forced to fire tear gas and stun grenades at the protesters, she said.
Police were also called in to safeguard the homes and offices of various councillors who live in the area, she said.
The protestors were angry because they were not receiving any support or information from the ward councillor for the area, Monde Vaaltyn, in terms of receiving land to build their shacks, KwaNobuhle resident Melisizwe Zuma said.
"There is not enough infrastructure here for all the people and some are forced to live in shacks in the yards of home owners. These home owners are charging them rent, sometimes R150 per month and sometimes R400 per month. These people can’t afford this,” he said.
The thousands of backyard dwellers in KwaNobuhle were frustrated and had been forced to take matters into their own hands.
"If the councillor does not come out and speak to these people then they are going to continue to do this,” he said.
But Vaaltyn denied residents’ claims that there was a lack of communication from his office.
"We have held several meetings with municipal officials and with these backyard dwellers. We have been disseminating information to them for the past few weeks and they have carried information to other residents, but it seems the information that has been passed on has been incorrect,” Vaaltyn said.
Residents wanted to occupy a piece of land in order to build shacks, but the land had been earmarked for RDP housing, he said.
"These people seem to believe that they will receive houses if they invade land, but this is not the case. Only the people who qualify will receive houses there,” he said.
There was a housing backlog in the Bay of about 90000. Backyard dwellers were a massive problem in not only KwaNobuhle, but the entire metro, Vaaltyn said.
The damage to property yesterday by the protestors was inexcusable, he said. He was uncertain why Booi and Gana had been targeted.