Bapsfontein residents clash with cops

December 29 2010

As the relocation of Bapsfontein’s 3 180 families reached its second day yesterday, residents carried wooden poles and cardboard signs and headed to the R25 to oppose the move.

They were insisting on having a “better place b4 movement”.

The protest turned violent as the residents threw bottles, rocks and anything else they could find at the police and the Red Ants.

The Red Ants retaliated, also throwing stones, before walking off to wait in the shade of a tree to continue their work.

At noon, metro police began shooting rubber bullets at protesters. After the crowd dispersed, the Red Ants returned, helping people move shacks and belongings to Putfontein.

Clement Simbeye, deputy chair of the Bapsfontein committee representing the community, said people were angry because they were not consulted properly about the move.

“We are told not to ask questions at meetings. There was no consultation, only information.”

Simbeye and other residents admitted they had agreed to a place they didn’t know. Emissaries sent to see the place on Monday brought back reports of inadequate space and “muddy, dumpy and grassy” terrain.

“We then made an informed decision that no one was going to move. If we let others leave, it will destabilise the community, we cannot be divided.”

Earlier, before the fracas involving the Red Ants, resident David Maboyana wanted some answers from Vivian Chauke, the Ekurhuleni member of the mayoral committee for housing.

“Why do you want us to listen to your cries, but you won’t listen to ours?” he asked.

He and a few others gathered around Chauke on the opposite side of the road from where police were monitoring the protest.

He complained to Chauke that the Bapsfontein community had been told to move at short notice. He also mentioned he had been told that residents would be divided and sent to different places because the area in Putfontein could not accommodate them all.

Other residents were worried about the cost of transport to their places of work. Some said they would have to pay R9 from Putfontein to Petit and another R9 to Bapsfontein.

Landowner Fanie van Wyk said he was aware that there were people living on the Bapsfontein land when he bought it at an auction about three years ago. He was not impressed with the way Ekurhuleni had handled the relocation.

Initially, there was tension between him and the residents because they thought he was going to chase them off the land.

But Van Wyk, who had no idea what he was going to do with the land when he bought it, said a friendship had developed after he had reassured them.

“We never minded them being there.”

He was not consulted about the relocation and found out about it through a notice declaring the land a disaster area.

“Everything happened very, very quickly. The way they did it was unfair.

“We knew they would be moved, but thought it would be to RDP houses,” said Van Wyk.

He said the residents had been told six months ago that the land was a disaster area, but relocation talks were only held a week go.

Metro spokesman Zweli Dlamini said resistance to moving people from informal settlements usually involved monetary issues.

“There are people who run creches, others have more than one shack in their yard which they are renting out. So, if you move the people, you are taking away their livelihood,” he said.

But, staying at a dangerous place such as Bapsfontein could cost people their lives.

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