From the news desk

Parkwood still tense following violent protests

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The situation in Parkwood remained tense on Monday following two days of violent protests related to housing and service delivery. Parkwood residents, many of them backyarders, staged a public protest on the busy Prince George Drive on Saturday evening, to demand that government heed their call.

The situation in Parkwood intensified on Sunday morning after City officials came to remove temporary structures, which were symbolically erected on a piece of land on Prince George Drive where residents stayed overnight. The residents had promised on Saturday that the structures would be dismantled once they had handed over their memorandum of demands to the local councillor. But after an inspection on Sunday morning, law enforcement reported that more people had moved in overnigh and then removed the temporary symbolic structures erected on a vacant piece of land on Prince George Drive.

A BP petrol station was set alight during the protest action and the ward councillor was removed from his home for his safety. However, the protesters said that the violence was spurred on by criminal elements and not organisers of the demonstration. According to protesters, they intended to have a peaceful protest to have their housing demands heard by the City of Cape Town.

The head of Backyarders Association in Parkwood and the protest organiser Dominique Booysen expressed his outraged that the City’s Law Enforcement officials removed the protesters without consulting the leaders.

“They removed the protesters with a truck filled with land invasion officers and that caused the crowd to get violent. Everyone who was part of the protest are people who live in backyards. There are about 15 000 backyard dwellers… there are more backyard dwellers than people who live in houses,” said Booysen.
He when on to explain that in every backyard structure there are about 4 or 5 families living there. But he said only 160 families were provided with water and electricity by the City of Cape Town.

“We were happy with these facilities however; they gave us this to keep us in the backyards. The backyarders won’t get houses, only people who are squatters and live informal settlements gets houses. The land that I’m currently standing on, the City said that they can’t build on due to the cables running underground, and they want to build a drop off-centre,” he added.

He said that they gave the councillor three days to come back to them and they have been informed that they will be meeting with the Western Cape Human Settlements MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela. Booysen believes the ward councillor had failed them. The community had been requesting the councillor for years to report to the City the urgent need for housing in the area.

“We are protesting due to the councillor not doing his job. Parkwoods residents have never protested before. That’s not how coloured people do things, but we have no other option. We are protesting for the city to see how urgently we need housing,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Awqaf SA South Africa was doing food distribution in Parkwood area for the less fortunate, and as a result was caught in the protest. The deputy CEO of Awaqf South African, Mickaeel Collier said that they were doing their first food distribution in conjunction with the Turkish Religious society in Parkwood, when they entered the area which was barricaded. The M5 was closed off while tyres were burning.

“This took me back to the days of apartheid, and it amazed me the dynamic of the both sides. We ended up being negotiators firstly to get entry into the area and then when into the midst of the crowd to ask them to allow to give the elderly and women their food parcels. It amazed me to the Syria and Gaza situation in our backyards,” said Collier.

Due to the humanitarian work they do, Awqaf deals with officials but also with people who are working on ground. They have been given the opportunity to go into people’s homes, where they witness the poverty.

“The amount of difficulty that people experience on a daily faces is mind-boggling. The apartheid constructed flats we see but very few people get the opportunity to go inside. If you do you will see a squatter camp in front of the flat and in the backyard,” he added.

“Something that was ironic is that we were in the centre where everything was happening and what I found strange was the vandalism taking place. There was amount of restraint taking place, but it’s like the police understood the condition of the community. In my option, the police main objective was to protect the M5,” he explained.

He said that the police wanted to prevent the protest from going into Athlone, South Field and Plumstead, due to there being clinics on the broader, yet they allowed the vandalism to take place.

“With and a half an hour the entire Parkwood housing office and clinic was vandalised. This was due to the frustration of the people. It was the only way they knew how to express themselves. We need to start engage with the community, let them engage with the officials,” he ended.

NEXT: The ward councillor responds

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