Police arrest 70 after squatter violence in S. Africa

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Police arrested about 70 people in the centre of South Africa's capital Pretoria after violence erupted in housing used by squatters, media reports said Thursday.

Late on Wednesday, about 100 people protesting at the lack of electricity and water set fire to tyres inside apartments and also burned cars parked outside the development, destroyed a mobile toilet and threw bottles into the street.

Firemen and riot police intervened to evacuate residents and try to restore calm, the enews TV channel showed.

A lack of housing remains a major problem for many families in South Africa, where hundreds of thousands of people live in shanty towns despite the wealth of the country, the economic powerhouse of the continent.

The problem is complicated by the number of immigrant workers from neighbouring countries, many of them without papers. Police said this was the case with the squatters in Schubert Park, the residence under attack in Pretoria.

According to the latest official housing study for 2010, published in August, 21.5 percent of the population lives in shanty towns in Gauteng province, which includes Johannesburg and Pretoria. More widely, 18 percent of South Africans live without electricity and 10 percent without tap water.

© 2011 AFP

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