Residents from Eldorado Park and Freedom Park (south of Johannesburg in South Africa) protested over the lack of housing and jobs on Monday. The protest turned violent; residents and police had running battles along the Golden Highway which runs through both suburbs.
“There is no future for the youth here”
Shaun Jacobs a young protester explained what set off the protests: “There’s no development in this area. There is no future for the youth here. Why do you think so many people from here get involved in selling drugs and stealing? It’s because there are no opportunities.”
Earlier residents blockaded the Golden Highway as well as the N12 and N1 highways which led to traffic congestion for people leaving the southern suburbs on their way to work.
Police managed to unblock the highways but the Golden Highway remained shut to traffic well into the late afternoon. In the morning commuters were seen making u-turns and heading home as all exits out of the suburbs were blocked.
Protesters from the two suburbs joined forces as they attempted to push police back. They were armed themselves with stones and petrol bombs. Police retaliated by firing rubber bullets and teargas into the crowd.
A few tear gas canisters landed in houses causing panic among the people living in them. Members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) flying squad also entered the fray when reports of the looting of a nearby Shoprite surfaced.
The SAPS flying squad members charged the crowd armed with live ammunition, with a few rounds being fired into the air. A commanding officer withdrew the flying squad members and opted instead to utilise members of the Public Order Police who are trained for crowd control.
Elija Williams said that the pleas of the communities were ignored by government. He accused politicians of only visiting the area when votes are needed to win elections.
“My grandmother died living in a shack. I’m most probably going to die living in a shack. I don’t want my child to also have to live their entire life in a shack with no electricity,” said Williams.
Some schools in the area had to close and learners were sent home due to the escalating violence. Some learners cried on the side of the road crying after inhaling teargas fired by the police.
Residents vowed to continue to protest until Gauteng Human Settlement MEC Paul Mashatile came to the area to listen to their grievances.
Protesters vented their frustrations at both local and national government with some calling for the resignation of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba while other could be heard chanting “Zuma must fall”.
Later in the afternoon Gauteng MEC for Community Safety Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane visited the area calling for calm to be restored. She confirmed that the Shoprite, Spar and BP garage were looted and that twelve people were arrested.
Published originally on GroundUp.