26 July 2012

South Africa: Joe Slovo Residents Protest Following City Crackdown on Local Electricity Vendor

The City's crackdown on bylaws preventing people from running businesses from shipping containers illegally placed on road reserves in Joe Slovo informal settlement sparked fierce protest among residents today.

Residents ended up burning tyres on the main thoroughfare Road and attempted to shut down foreign-owned businesses operating from shipping containers.

This morning the City's Human Settlement Department impounded local businesswoman Nomzano Nkapayi's shipping container from which she had been selling electricity vouchers for the past two months.

Nkayapi said she was issued with a seven-day notice to move the container but before the deadline she engaged City officials and was told to write a letter explaining what business she was operating. She said she was shocked to see City officials arrive to tow her container away yesterday. The action sparked anger among the many residents who bought electricity at Nkapayi's shop as the only alternative was to walk five kilometres to the nearest shop on Koeberg Road.

After the Human Settlement department officials towed her container away - along with an electricity vending machine loaded with approximately R2000 worth of electricity units, the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) - JoeSlovo branch - drove around the township calling all residents to rally behind Nkayapi.

Nkayapi said officials told her she would have to pay R4200 to reclaim her shipping container.

"We are not in agreement with what the minority government is doing to us," said Sanco chair Bulelani Banjatwa.

By noon about 200 residents assembled and started attempting to push shipping containers from which foreign nationals ran businesses but police swiftly intervened. Residents were upset that foreign-owned shipping containers, which were also on the road reserves, were not also confiscated, said community leader Luthando Lekevana.

A crowd of about 500 residents then started blockading the township main road with burning tyres. More law enforcement arrived just after 2pm to control the angry crowd, in the meantime all foreign owned shipping containers lined up a long Freedom Way had been shut down.

"The City is fuelling xenophobia. Why close a local owned shop and leaving foreign owned shops to trade in our township?" said Matomane. City's Mayoral Committee for Human Settlements, Ernest Sonnenberg, said the City was not targeting any "specific groupings or protecting others".

Sonnenberg said people could place shipping containers wherever they liked. "To erect containers, due processes must be followed of which the requirement is to first get approval from the Department of Economic and Spatial Planning," said Sonnenberg.

"This particular illegal structure was erected approximately two weeks ago and the city acted immediately in accordance with policy."

He said Nkayapi had been served two notices by the city's anti-land invasion unit and she had refused to sign the first notice. "The City officials reported being threatened at these interactions," he said.

The City was meeting with the community's representative's yesterday afternoon to explain the processes and policies, he said.

Milnerton Police were approached for comment but referred all queries to the South African Police Western Cape media liaison department who had not responded by the time of going to press.

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