SIMMERING tensions among Motherwell residents over service delivery boiled over onto the Port Elizabeth township's streets yesterday, with nine people arrested for public violence and an elderly woman admitted to hospital.
Police were forced to close the roads and shoot at protesters with rubber bullets after they burnt tyres along the Addo Road and in Ngedle Street yesterday morning.
As a result, many non-protesting residents missed work.
Resident Zintle Galada said they had nowhere to go after their shacks were dismantled yesterday.
"We were burning tyres because we want houses. I have been waiting for nine years and there are some people older than me who have been waiting much longer,” she said.
Yesterday's protest relates to an incident last week in which an angry mob disrupted preparation work for an RDP housing development in Motherwell. Although the municipality had already set about developing the land near Tyinira Road to build houses, about 300 residents settled there on Tuesday last week, armed with equipment to erect shacks.
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said Human Settlements officials had a meeting with community leaders and it was "unanimously” agreed the leaders would go back to the residents and ensure the illegal structures were demolished and the people moved from the site.
If residents failed to comply, the municipality would be allowed to execute a court interdict forcing residents to take down the structures and vacate the land.
However, the residents were not happy with this. They refused to leave and planned to hire a lawyer to help them fight the court order.
But chaos erupted yesterday when officials arrived to take down the structures – one complete and several others in the process of being erected.
"The Sheriff of the Court issued a notice that the structures must be removed within five days. If not adhered to, the structures would be removed,” Baron said. "The court order was therefore enforced as today [yesterday] was the fifth day.”
Galada said the police had started shooting at them without warning.
"They ran after us, shooting, and took nine people to jail. The people they took were old people. One old woman got shot in the thigh and was taken to hospital,” she said.
"We are tired, we just want our houses. Other people are getting housing and we are not.”
Avuyile Manjesi said he was shot in the back. "The police asked us to clear what we built but we said no, we will not do that until we get addressed by the mayor or somebody from the municipality,” he said.
"Suddenly, we saw the police putting on their bulletproof vests and soon after that they started shooting.”
Community leader Siphiwe Dayimani said: "We will carry on with this until we get the attention of [Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Zanoxolo] Wayile, [Human Settlements executive director Kosalin] Naicker and [Human Settlements MEC] Sauls-August to come and tell us what is going on.
"We voted to get a better life for all, but we don't see that. Now, 2014 is coming and what will we vote for?”
Another Motherwell resident, Zamuxolo Lloyd, said: "We will make sure to canvass as far as Walmer and Uitenhage to get a consensus on anti- voting until we get our houses.
"The average age here of people in need of houses is 40 and above. If they are given a house in 40 years' time, what is the purpose of that house? Is it for them to die there?”
Baron said while the municipality understood the residents' plight, it had a responsibility to prevent illegal squatting and work towards formal housing. Officials were expected to meet with the residents again tomorrow to find a "lasting solution” to the problem.
Police spokesman Warrant Officer Dumile Gwavu confirmed that nine people had been arrested for public violence and that police had used rubber bullets. However, he was not aware of any residents being shot.