Africa

South Africa clashes over sinkhole relocation order

Residents protest in Bapsfontein (Tshepo Lesole/Eyewitness News)
Image caption Residents are demanding new homes that are safe and free from flooding

Residents of a shanty town in South Africa have clashed with police over attempts to relocate them after huge sinkholes began to appear nearby.

Hundreds of those living in Bapsfontein, near Pretoria, burned tyres and threw stones, as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets.

Authorities have begun to demolish homes in the area, saying the land is no longer fit for human settlement.

Officials want to relocate 3,000 families from the region.

The depressions are said to be the result of a massive extraction of water by farms in the area, which has caused underground caverns to collapse.

Municipality officials have said the informal settlement is in a dangerous area and that families must be relocated as soon as possible.

They have said that residents had given their consent to be moved.

'Demolishing shacks'

Image caption Officials say Bapsfontein is not safe for human settlement

But Imraan Karolia, a journalist from South Africa's Talk Radio 702, said the municipality was basically saying "that these people will move whether they like it or not".

"Police opened fire with rubber bullets, threatening to take residents and arrest them and this directive came from the Ekurhuleni municipality, saying they aren't there to play any games," Mr Karolia told the BBC.

"Their trucks are busy demolishing shacks and taking all of the shelter to the other area," he added.

The BBC's Africa editor Martin Plaut says the 3,000 residents are demanding new homes in an area that is not only safe, but also free from flooding.

Some of the sinkholes are more than 80m (263ft) across, and cracks now run throughout the area, he says.

On Monday, Zweli Dlamini, a spokesman for the Ekurhuleni municipality, told the BBC that "the situation is so bad that there are several sinkholes that have formed around the area".

He said the area around the informal settlement had been categorised as unsafe because of the possibility of the sinkhole "swallowing that piece of land".

Underground water was increasing the danger to a degree that gave authorities no choice but to order an immediate evacuation, he added.

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