GEORGE NEWS - Young people from an area called Bangalow in Zone 1, Thembalethu joined the ranks of those protesting for land, taking to the streets in Thembalethu on Friday 3 August. The protests started at 05:00 in the area situated near Africa Skills, with protesters saying that the land belongs to them.
The protesters were met by law enforcement officers and the public order police unit who prevented their intended action. Stones started to fly, Ntaka Street was barricaded and tyres set alight by the protesters. The police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas trying to disperse the crowd. A structure belonging to a ZCC church was also set alight.
The protesters who initially vowed not to back down until their demands are met, burned tyres in front of Councillor Langa Langa's house, demanding that he come and address them. Langa is the ward councillor of this area.
Zee Febana, leader of the protesters, said they have been promised land for many years and their families are expanding, leaving them with increasingly crowded living space in their homes.
"We live in very difficult conditions where one bungalow has about 10 family members or even more. There's not even enough space in the yard to build backyard shacks," said Febana. "This land has been promised to us since 1998, we can't wait any longer now. Young people of this area desperately need places to stay."
Addressing the protesters, Langa warned them against being used as instruments in political smear campaigns that seek to tarnish his name and slow progress in the ward. He said that he doesn't own land and made it clear that he has no say in the allocation of land to residents. He pointed out that there are already plans to service the land in question for housing development.
Responding to the protest, Chantel Edwards-Klose, George Municipal spokesperson, said the municipality can unfortunately not allow unlawful land invasions and has no alternative but to adopt a no-tolerance approach.
"The interests of law-abiding members within the community who wish to benefit from housing developments are being protected against unlawful occupiers who want to jump the queue at their expense. The piece of land known as the Thembalethu N2 project is earmarked for housing development with a housing opportunity yield of 392 sites. The project planning that currently forms part of the housing pipeline is implementation-ready and the municipality cannot allow that invasion thereof results in delays in service delivery," she said.
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