Johannesburg – Running battles ensued between two communities and law enforcement officials on Friday, as residents expressed their anger over the government’s reluctance to resolve their housing grievances.
In Pennyville, Soweto, officials had to divert heavy morning traffic to alternative routes as the main exit out of the township was blockaded by burning tyres and stones.
Some pupils were forced to return home as buses and taxis were denied access into the township. Fires were lit as the protests intensified and police fired rubber bullets in a bid to disperse the raging protesters.
However, the community fought back, pelting officers with stones and bottles.
Police used Nyalas in the township to try and apprehend those fuelling the protest.
Occupants of low-cost houses built by the City of Johannesburg about 12 years ago are demanding the council revoke lease agreements and let them stay in the units free.
According to residents, the project, which consists of about 800 units, was originally built as part of a social housing intervention meant to provide cheaper accommodation for the working class.
However, after six years, four companies claimed ownership of the units and have since inflated rental prices, according to residents.
Community representative Tshepo Motebang said residents had written numerous letters and submitted memorandums to mayor Herman Mashaba to request a meeting, but with no success.
Motebang said the companies claiming ownership were bogus and their intention was to rip off tenants.
“The only solution is to let the units be owned by the people. Criminals have hijacked the properties.
“Mashaba should give people who are currently staying here title deeds. Why call it social housing if people are still expected to pay?”
Another resident, Zwiberg Thusi, complained that people were paying rent and levies but the properties were not maintained.
“We normally clean this place ourselves and fix broken stuff. They do not do anything for us, except collecting rent.”
Thusi said Gauteng Premier David Makhura initially committed to meeting the residents yesterday but cancelled at the last minute.
“We want to be taken seriously. At the moment, politicians think they can play with us. We will not stop until we are listened to.”
Approximately 30km away, in the community of Rustervaal, a similar scene unfolded.
Here, owners of bonded houses went on the rampage, throwing stones and other objects on to the busy R82 linking Joburg and Vereeniging.
They are demanding neighbouring shacks be demolished because they are affecting their property values.
The owners of the bonded houses claimed their neighbours illegally occupied the land and were behind the high crime rate in the area.
Some motorists narrowly escaped the wrath of the community, who threw stones and other objects at the speeding cars.
Police struggled to contain the enraged crowd, who continued causing mayhem, even in the presence of the SAPS.
Traffic came to a standstill as police tried to calm tensions.
Residents also ordered the media to “stay out of their business” because they did not have the “interests of the community at heart”.
“They are like politicians. They enjoy watching us fight,” said one man.
The Saturday Star