Thembelihle wants more

2011-09-11 10:00
Loyiso Sidimba
The City of Johannesburg still wants Thembelihle residents to relocate, despite violent service delivery protests in the informal settlement this week.

The municipality confirmed that phase 2 of the Lehae housing development project was currently under way and would accommodate some of Thembelihle’s residents.

The municipality provides services to Lehae despite residents’ refusal to relocate there. “The city is currently conducting a feasibility study on two portions of land – one north of Lehae and a farm called Misgund, near Lehae,” said spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane.

Thembelihle residents took to the streets after Janice Zondo, a Johannesburg ward 8 councillor, failed to respond to a memo-randum delivered on August 28, according to community leader Bhayiza Miya.

Their previous councillor, Dan Bovu, is one of Johannesburg’s longest-serving officials and now serves as the city’s mayoral committee member for housing.

Bovu served for 15 years but Miya told City Press that residents did not even know where he lived.

Though Thembelihle residents still refuse to relocate to Lehae, which is not far from the informal settlement, Modin-goane said a geological study had revealed that Thembelihle is dolomitic and unsafe for human habitation.

But Miya disputes this, saying the municipality dug 20 holes instead of 80 when conducting its study. “They said the community must raise money for its study,” he said.

Residents told City Press they would not move even though they lost a South Gauteng High Court case which authorised their relocation in 2009.

Instead, many were angry at the violence allegedly unleashed by police. Father-of-four David Khoza (35) vowed he would continue protesting even if cops shot them. “I want my kids to be close to their school (Azara High School in Lenasia, across the road from Thembelihle),” Khoza said.

He said they wanted all residents to have electricity, not just street lights. Houses in Thembelihle have no electricity and enterprising residents illegally connect their homes to traffic lights in nearby Lenasia.

The municipality has promised to continue providing basic services (water, sanitation, waste collection and electricity) in Thembelihle.

Police arrested about 16 protesters on Tuesday following the protests, which started on Monday, a day after residents held a meeting which decided on the protest action.

They were charged with public violence and malicious damage to property but were released by the Protea Magistrate’s Court on Friday.

The municipality says between December last year and January an audit of the informal settlement found that there were 6 775 shacks in Thembelihle. They were in blocks D, F and N.

Modingoane said out of the 6 775 shacks, 3 597 were main shacks and 3 178 were ­
sub-tenants. He said the city has provided bulk infrastructure such as water and sewerage at about 1000 stands in Lehae.