The Gauteng provincial government has sent a senior team to the volatile Gomorrah informal settlement, west of Pretoria, on Thursday to quell violent protests that led to running battles between police and residents, and a trail of destruction.
Gauteng MEC for cooperative governance, traditional affairs and human settlements Paul Mashatile was represented by Joshua Ngonyama, chief director for water and sanitation, who had a meeting and answered several questions from the fuming community members who are demanding formal housing in the area.
“I think it’s really unfortunate that cars were burnt today, which was not how we wanted the situation to be resolved. We are saying now we want to create open communication channels with community leaders hence we are saying it was indeed important for us to meet this community,” Ngonyama told African News Agency after his meeting with the protesters.
“We know them [the Gomorrah residents], and we know their struggles and their concerns. We will be there to resolve them within an applicable time frame that we would like to negotiate with the City of Tshwane.”
Ngonyama, the former Tshwane mayor committee member for housing under the previous ANC administration, said the land occupied by Gomorrah residents had been acquired by provincial authorities and nothing could stop amenities from flowing into the community.
“This area known as Gomorrah was in private hands for more than eight years, until the Gauteng province bought the land in 2015. Unfortunately, the transfer of the land took long. It was only finalized now, in 2017. What we have done today is to ensure that the power of attorney is given to the City of Tshwane to enable it to bring in electricity in the area,” said Ngonyama.
He said the provincial and municipal authorities will be discussing the kind of houses to construct for the people of Gomorrah.
Ngonyama addressed the crowd of protesters after at least seven vehicles were torched by the Gomorrah residents on Thursday. Tshwane’s premises for nursery and training operations was also gutted by flames. Three vehicles were also torched in the premises.
Earlier, Tshwane West SA Police Service cluster spokesperson Captain Tumisang Moloto said no arrests had been made.
“No one has been arrested yet, but we have deployed our public order police to monitor and to assess the situation. We are also increasing the police presence in the area to prevent any violent activities,” he said.
The informal settlement residents have been on the rampage since around midnight, burning electricity poles, blocking off roads with logs and tyres, and setting off several fires.
Some residents of Hercules, adjacent to the informal settlement, complained that the protesters were throwing stones into their yards, smashing windows and tearing down electric fencing.
“I have been standing out here since 2am. They were here to do damage. Look, we don’t have electricity now because they set fire to the pole. They have pulled down my electric wire,” said one home owner who asked not to be identified.