Protest about services flares up

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It began with a single cardboard box set alight in front of traffic on Mew Way.

The protest flared up last night as Khayelitsha residents heaped trash upon the growing fire and danced around the flames, demanding access to housing and service delivery.

“We need houses and we need them now,” said Aniso Achmat, running past a second trash pile that had just been torched by a gang of fleeing boys.

Police officers holding shotguns had to patrol the street to keep order while the flames were extinguished.

“My baby has asthma and she cannot breathe when she sleeps because of the smells coming from here,” said Kanyisa Barumame, opening a metal box on the roadside to reveal the filthy public outhouse within. “We need proper toilets before more of our children become sick.”

Virginia Glosson nodded and tightened her grip on the shoulder of one of the myriad children crowded around the road.

“We have no house and no toilets,” she said. “My children have to go out and do their business next to the cars passing by. It is not right.”

Through the tight trash-ridden corridors leading away from the chaos of the street, Elvis Monwuapisi huddled with his family next to a bonfire for warmth. He gave a doleful look at a massive puddle in the middle of the road and said his house was located on the other side.

“My house is still completely flooded, there is so much water in the room,” he said. “But I can’t even reach it to bail it out because the water is blocking the road. No one can pass through.”

Monwuapisi said he had waited for assistance from the Department of Disaster Management that never came.

“No one has come to help us,” he said. “We are on our own out here.”

Barumame pointed towards a deep pond lying in between sprawling piles of rubbish and scattered grassy patches, shaking her head.

“Ever since the rains, that water has been overflowing,” she said. “It is very dangerous and the children keep going there to play.

“Recently, people who want to rob and rape have been hanging out there too.”

Barumame also motioned to a scrap metal shack perched at the base of a rotting mountain of garbage.

“The family that stays there has a child who is only one or two months old,” she said. “The baby is sick because they live in the trash, it is not right.”

She sighed and slammed a nearby door, causing the muddy water at the base of the shack to splash up against her leg.

“Our homes are flooded, no one will help us and we do not have a council here to represent us,” she said.

“This is how we must make our voices heard.”


~ by Matt Medved on July 31, 2007.

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