South Africa: Plett Residents in Court After Protests Against Stalled Housing Project

Three people who were arrested during mass protests by Qolweni informal settlement residents in Plettenberg Bay last week are to appear in the Knysna Magistrates Court today to apply for bail.

The protests erupted as a result of unanswered questions about delays of a Qolweni housing project which includes the construction of about 170 houses. The project was approved in October 2019 but due to delays such as the Covid-19 lockdown last year, was rescheduled to start in January 2021. But to date it is yet to break ground.

The protests, which started on 14 June, resulted in the closure of the N2 between Knysna and Plettenberg Bay, paralysing businesses and leaving workers and learners who commute daily on this route, stranded.

"We've been fighting and protesting for houses for the last four years. The only thing we want to see is construction on site, not municipal officials calling us to negotiate," said community leader Thandanani Mdatyulwa on Friday.

He was speaking to a large crowd of residents as well as provincial Human Settlements MEC Tertius Simmers who visited the area to quell the unrest. This after attempts and meetings with residents and officials from the Bitou Municipality failed.

"We also want all of our comrades in prison to be released. We will give the police a chance to do so, but if they are not out within the next couple of days and the construction team is not on site, we will take our anger to the streets again," warned Mdatyulwa.

South African Human Rights Commission's Lessego Eugen Raphalane said they would continue to monitor the unrest and help facilitate negotiations with authorities.

Minister Simmers promised to return to Plettenberg Bay on 29 June to give the community detailed feedback on the project.

Southern Cape Police spokesperson Sergeant Christopher Spies said Public Order Police remain in the area to monitor any groups gathering.

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