South African police clashed with Soweto residents who staged a protest after squatters tried to erect shacks nearby – the latest flare-up over the issue of land redistribution.
The central province of Gauteng, including Soweto, witnessed several land grab attempts this year. Those responsible were quoted by local media as saying they are fed up with unfulfilled government promises to build houses for the poor.
Millions of mostly black South Africans remain landless and homeless despite a house-building drive, fanning social tensions when the ruling ANC has signalled its intention to seize white-owned land without compensation to redress racial imbalances.
On Monday, the land issue bubbled over in Soweto, the sprawling township that was a focal point of anti-apartheid protests.
Police say residents in the working-class suburb of Protea Glen, who mostly live in modest houses, began burning tyres and throwing stones at motorists in protest at the nearby land invasion, which occurred at the weekend.
“Residents blocked roads with rocks and burning tyres and say they don’t want people to build shacks in the open spaces there,” said police spokesman Mbulaheni Netshivhodza.
“…They want the mayor to address them and the situation is tense.”
Local TV channel eNCA broadcast live footage of police, who removed squatters at the weekend, firing rubber bullets to disperse protesters.
According to government data, since the end of white rule in 1994 around 4.5 million low-cost homes have been built but this has failed to keep pace with demand as rural migrants move to urban centres.