Kliptown protest action: One community, two different stories

Kliptown community members patiently waiting for MMC of housing, Mzobanzi Ntuli.

Kliptown community members patiently waiting for MMC of housing, Mzobanzi Ntuli.

Residents of the Kliptown informal settlement took to the streets in protest on Tuesday, May the 2nd. They had a list of grievances they wanted government to attend to, the main one being housing. City of Joburg MMC for housing, Mzobanzi Ntuli came to address community and take down the list of demands that the community had for government. Among those were a feedback on the turnkey project that previous MMC, Dan Bovu had promised to them and an audit of the Klipspruit Zone 9 flats where some of the Kliptown shack dwellers have been allocated housing. He stated that all that he was presented with was new to him and he needed a week to investigate, therefore resolved to meet 7 days later on Tuesday, May the 9th.

The meeting was later moved outside the hall to accommodate the sheer number of attendants. 

The meeting was later moved outside the hall to accommodate the sheer number of attendants. 

A crowd of 500+ showed up at the Walter Sisulu square to be addressed by the MMC regarding his feedback on their demands and the way forward. The meeting was scheduled for 4pm. At about 4:45pm, almost an hour after the time meeting was supposed to start a faction of the crowd began to break away from where everyone else was congregated. The break away faction began singing struggle songs and marching in the direction of the Soweto Hotel and headed out to the street where they began looting shops and stock form nearby hawkers. Stones were thrown at stores that could not be broken into and storage facilities where hawkers keep their stock were left open and exposed. Their behavior seemed to be inspired by that of neighboring Eldorado Park which was in the middle of and unrelated service delivery protest which saw them barricade all roads coming into and out of the township. 

Members of the SAPS dispersing a group of rioters.

Members of the SAPS dispersing a group of rioters.

"We are not part and parcel of the Eldorado Park protest, we are aware of and in solidarity with Freedom Park and Slovo Park", said Sandile Mqhayi, a Kliptown community leader who was faced with the difficult task of dissuading those that stayed behind at Walter Sisulu square from leaving to go join the looters and rioters. The police fired rubber bullets into the crowd to disperse them. One person, Kliptown square hawker was shot with what appeared to be live ammunition and when onlookers gathered around him, the Soweto TRT team fired a grenade that released purple colored teargas to break up the congregation. 

Street hawker nursing a gunshot wound.

Street hawker nursing a gunshot wound.

Teargas used to disperse the crowd gathered around the wounded man.

Teargas used to disperse the crowd gathered around the wounded man.

MMC Mzobanzi Ntuli eventually showed up at 5:37pm without other officials that were supposed to be there with him. More than half of the people that waited for the MMC, not joining in on the riots had already left by the time he showed up and other officials did not bother to come, citing safety amidst protest action as the reason. Another meeting has been scheduled for the following day, this time only with community leaders.