Protest Action disrupts Mossel Bay – UISP Project Destroyed

A coordinated attack on the Mossel Bay UISP project erupted in the early hours of Tuesday 23 August 2022. 

Protestors entered the UISP construction area at Transand Camp and demolished approximately 20 of the 25 completed toilet structures that were built as part of the construction of enhanced serviced sites.  Some of the installed water meters were also vandalised. The vandalism and protest continued for the rest of the day and through the night.

The protestors broke into the contractor’s site camp and set some of the material alight.  While the police tried to restore order in the Transand Camp area, another group of protestors broke into the TRA facility where they broke down the fence, through stones and broke almost all the windows of the TRA units and set two of the ablution blocks alight, and vandalised the rest of the ablution blocks.  Some of the TRA units were also burned and broken down and dismantled and panels taken away.  The protestors burnt a 3-ton roller of the contractor.  Newly installed electrical infrastructure was also taken down and destroyed.

The police arrested five members of the community and the Executive Mayor of the Mossel Bay Municipality, accompanied with the Director:  Planning & Economic Development met with a group of protestors at the KwaNonqaba police station to try and resolve the issue, but it was clear that the protestor’s demands are unrealistic and cannot be met.

There are over 6500 families living in informal settlements in the Mossel Bay municipal area. Currently, families living in the informal settlements must share toilets and water points. Some areas have no services and, in the areas, where basic services are provided, in some instances up to 10 families must share one toilet.  Residents must walk with buckets for great distances to reach the nearest water point.

The Mossel Bay Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) is intended to upgrade the living standards of the community living in informal settlements by providing each household with its own stand with a toilet and tap with running water.  The upgrade involves the creation of a formalised town with tarred roads and A-grade services and provides security of tenure to each household living in the informal settlements. Each stand is also supplied with an electrical connection.  The first surveys to determine the beneficiaries of the project was done in 2017 and a social compact was signed between the community and the Municipality, which confirmed that the community is supporting the development of the project. The project is funded by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements.

A communication plan was developed in the inception phase of the project. The communities elected representative beneficiary liaison officers to attend meetings and workshops where they were capacitated with knowledge and knowhow about the processes, policies, guidelines, technical information, erf sizes, TRA unit sizes, implementation, and relocation plans.  Stakeholders who are actively part of the implementation and ongoing communication includes the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, Directorates of the Mossel Bay Municipality, Ward Councillors, appointed service providers and elected BLCs.

The first step in the implementation of Phase 1 of the UISP was the establishment of the TRA (Temporary Relocation Area) to house the families on a temporary basis while the serviced sites are being created. 

Relocation of households to the TRA facility was about to start when the community unrest started to emerge. When the Implementing Agent started to issue notices to the households that must be relocated first, they were blocked by a disgruntled group of people from the Growing Hope/Emfuleni informal settlement.  The contractor was chased away and blocked from continuing the work next to the Growing Hope and Emfuleni settlement by the adjacent residents.

Some of the concerns raised included the size of the TRA units, the number of labourers employed by the contractor, unhappiness about the ward councillor and the sizes of the serviced sites.  Members of the community demanded that two TRA units must be allocated to each household.  The Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, the municipality and its implementing agent (Zutari) addressed the community at several meetings to resolve the concerns and explained that a blanket approach will not be implemented where one household is relocated to one TRA unit. Instead, the Municipality agreed that households will be evaluated based on the size of the family, the structure and the amount of belongings and will then be relocated to two TRA units if needed, with storage for their materials. Since the end of July when the work was stopped, numerous meetings were held with the community to try and resolve the concerns raised by the community.  The last community meeting held at the KwaNonqaba community hall, led by Municipal officials, on Wednesday 17 August 2022, was disrupted by a small group of community members that prevented the meeting from taking place.  People who are in support of the project and who wants the project to proceed were overpowered by the disgruntled group.

17 August 2022 Community meeting disrupted by small group

See a video taken at the meeting here: https://mbuisp.files.wordpress.com/2022/08/whatsapp-video-2022-08-18-at-10.56.48-am.mp4

After this meeting the same group of disgruntled members of the Emfuleni community have mobilised people from other areas of the KwaNonqaba to join in a protest action to stop the project from being executed.  Together, they have coordinated the destructive attacks against the UISP implementation sites that have taken place since the morning of the 23rd of August 2022.

Since 2008, more than 2 million people have taken to the streets in protest every year.  The most common reasons for the widespread ‘service delivery protests’ are grievances around urban land and housing.  According to the newspaper “Informal settlements have been at the forefront of service delivery protests as residents demand houses and basic services”.

Some of the people in the footprint of the UISP project at Kwanonqaba, are protesting the provision of delivery of basic services and the call is to stop the development of the project, that will ultimately assist 6500 households to live a dignified life.

The photos below illustrate some of the damage and devastation that has been caused to the infrastructure:

See below Facebook posts posted by the Mossel Bay Municipality for more information.

Executive Mayor of Mossel Bay, Dirk Kotzé

https://fb.watch/f5z_PfBTMx/

Mossel Bay Municipality

UPDATE: PROTEST ACTION – Tuesday, 23 August, 10:40

JOC OPERATIONAL FOR THE FIRST TIME

Exactly a week after the Mossel Bay Municipality’s Joint Operation Centre was officially opened last Tuesday, 16 August collaborative effort in terms of dealing with community safety, has proven its worth.

Reports were received yesterday, 22 August that protest action may take place today. The reason for the protest seems to sprout from disgruntlement over housing.

Protest action commenced in KwaNonqaba at approximately 04:00 this morning, 23 August with groups of community members congregating in Mayixhale Street. Obstructions were caused and road surfaces damaged.

All the relevant parties in orchestrating the response to the protest action congregated at the JOC from 06:00. Response teams activated through the JOC were at the scene to monitor protesters from 06:00. A drone was activated from the JOC for an aerial view of the hot spots in order to make the best-informed choices regarding a collaborative response. Footage obtained from security cameras feeding into the observation room were also utilized to monitor the protesters’ movement and actions. The South African Police Service’s Public Order Protection Unit (POPS) was notified and responded.

Several road closures occurred, and traffic had to be relayed with assistance from both municipal and provincial traffic services. This caused severe traffic congestion on the N2 and parts of Louis Fourie Road past the Langeberg Mall and De Bakke. POPS arrived with two vehicles to engage the protesters who then moved back onto Mayixhale Steet. The protesters moved towards the KwaNonqaba Police Station, where a large group is still gathered and being monitored by POPS. The group have requested to meet with the relevant authorities and departments to discuss their issues.

Road clearing operations started at approximately 08:20 and the section of Louis Fourie Road that was closed due to the protest action was opened to traffic just after 08:30. Sections of Mayixhale Street towards Voorbaai, where stones were thrown were still at risk and is being monitored

It has been reported that apart from road surfaces, no other municipal infrastructure was damaged.

“This is the first time that the JOC is being used with all the relevant roleplayers making joint decisions. Up to this point, it has been very successful. We will monitor the situation throughout the day and keep our resources and reserves on alert,” commented Councillor Leon van Dyk, Portfolio Chair of Community Safety.

“The safety of our people and keeping them informed is our first priority,” concluded the Municipal Manager, Colin Puren.

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