Violent Protests in Mosselbay

The riots started unexpectedly in the morning on Sunday, 10 August 2014, when a group of people marched to the Louis Fourie Road/Mayixhale Street junction where they vandalised and damaged a set of traffic lights and also burnt objects in the road. They then moved to a municipal building in Mayixhale Street, which houses the housing offices, and set the building alight, causing hundreds of thousands of rands. The damage to the traffic lights amount to R300 000 and as the lights are uninsurable, the bill has to be footed by the ratepayers.
At no stage was an application made for permission to stage a protest march, nor was this granted.
They subsequently set the Garden Route Primary School, the Thusong Centre, the KwaNonqaba Community hall and the KwaNonqaba satellite police station in Asla Park alight. These fires could, however, be put out and the damage was minimal. They continued to vandalise other stuctures such as the Thusong Centre fence and traffic signs and also looted spaza shops. They continued to burn tyres on roads and threw stones at passing traffic on internal roads as well as on the N2. It is clear that criminal elements became involved.
Attempts were made to talk to the leaders but the they wanted the Mayor to address a mass meeting which she refused to do for personal safety reasons. The leaders were invited to meet with the Mayor on Friday, 15 August 2014 and their response is awaited.
The hot spot appears to be illegal dwellings in Thembelihle, Umfuleni and Sijaji Streets where problems continue to be experienced with illegal electricity connections. Although a notice was issued to these people to refrain from this practice or face prosecution, no illegal connections were removed in the past month.
The Municipality has in close proximity to this area:
– Completed 440 new houses in the 2013/2014 financial year, while another 220 are due for completion in March 2015
– Serviced another 400 sites, with another 250 due to be completed in March 2015.
– Built 441 Access to Basic Services units with flush toilets and basins (one unit for every five households) for people who do not have a house or serviced site. Most of these structures have been vandalised in the meantime. Vandalism and theft continue to be a major problem.
The residents have over a period of time demanded electricity, although this cannot be given to them due to the Department of Energy’s policy that houses cannot be electrified if people have located themselves on a flood plain or a school site, as in this case, or if they are going to relocate within three years or if there is not housing plans in the long term for the particular site.
The influx of informal settlers is very high and the Municipality is unable to keep pace with demands with limited resources. The Municipality is furthermore dependent on the National Government for housing grants and at present has a housing waiting list of 14 000 families. It would be grossly unfair to provide housing to new arrivals at the expense of people whose names have been on the waiting list for years in some cases.
It is believed that the riots are politically motivated as political flags have featured during the riots and as there is a by-election in a nearby ward.
The SA Police is in control of the situation. It is generally calm at present although sporadic incidents are apparently occurring in the KwaNonqaba area. •

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