September 8, 2007

Violent protests over housing in Tshwane

A Tshwane rubbish removal strike has turned violent when police opened fire on a group of workers who were hurling stones at refuse trucks. The clash between police and the disgruntled municipal waste management contract workers erupted when the strikers launched an attack on trucks trying to leave the Pretoria West depot. The Tshwane Metro Police and their SAPS colleagues anticipated the attack. Police cornered several of the protesters in a parking lot as they tried to hide behind cars. No one was arrested.
About a week earlier, one person was killed during angry clashes between police and protesters in Soweto. The man who was killed was run over by a bakery van during the protests, in which police fired rubber bullets and water cannon, and demonstrators threw stones. The demonstrators protested against what they see as the government's failure to improve living conditions. One community leader criticised that local residents still had no water, no electricity and no sewage provision. "We still go [to the toilet] in the bushes," he said.
Scores of protesters in Protea South chanted "More homes" and "We want water" during the protests. They complained that more than a decade after the fall of apartheid and the promise of prosperity, they still live in desperate poverty. Hundreds of protesters also blockaded the N12 highway south of Soweto with large rocks and burning barricades. The demonstrators said they gathered after local government officials refused to meet them to discuss their complaints. Police confronted the crowd and after a stand-off that lasted several hours, councillors came for talks. But as the discussion grew heated, protesters threw rocks at the armoured vehicle they were talking from. Police opened fire with rubber bullets, shooting low and flat as the crowd scattered into the township. "Police had to use rubber bullets when hundreds of residents became violent during a protest," police spokeswoman Inspector Edna Mamonyane said. "Two journalists were injured when protesters started throwing stones and bricks at the police. A protester was run over by a bakery truck and killed on the scene, while we arrested seven suspects."
According to news reports the protest was one amongst a long series of angry demonstrations at the ANC government's failure to deal with the demands of a majority of people. South Africa has built at least 1.6 million new houses and 9 million people have gained access to water since the end of apartheid in 1994, but shortages remain severe. (Cape Argus, Cape Town / Business Day, Johannesburg)

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