Questions over “break-away” group engaging with provincial government “behind closed doors”
TONGUES were wagging after most of the known representatives of the United Community of Sol Plaatje Municipality (UCSPM) were shut out from the ongoing engagements with provincial government on Monday and Tuesday.
Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul was accompanied at the engagements by Sol Plaatje executive mayor Patrick Mabilo, members of the mayoral committee, MECs for the departments of Roads and Public Works, Transport, Safety and Liaison and Health, the director-general of the Province, Justice Bekebeke, and senior government officials.
While the frustrated UCSPM representatives briefed the media on the “lack of response” regarding service delivery demands on the memorandum on Monday, a break-away group of about five people was busy engaging with Saul at the Premier’s Office.
According to the Premier’s Office, the two-day meeting aimed to discuss matters contained in the memorandum and to chart a way forward for the benefit of the people of the Sol Plaatje Municipality.
The spokesperson for the Premier’s Office, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, said the engagements followed a request by the community representatives to engage the premier and the Sol Plaatje Municipality on their plans in assisting the local authority with service delivery challenges and the interventions announced by the provincial government.
A steering committee was established on Monday, where all communities in the city would be represented.
Questions, however, arose regarding the criteria used to select the team to continue the engagements and which communities they represented.
Disgruntled community leaders also wanted to know why the number of representatives had “shrunk”.
It is believed that the team was “hand-picked” from the attendance register of representatives after the engagement held at the municipal chambers on April 22.
The team was labelled as “opportunists” on social media, who used the community for their own political gain and had their eye on the R500 million which was allocated by provincial government to speed up service delivery.
During the media briefing on Tuesday, the elected representatives expressed concerns around the “lack of transparency” regarding the engagements.
No one knew whether the engagements were going to pick up from where they had left off or whether they would start from scratch.
According to the community leaders, they only recognise two engagements, at which no consensus was reached, resulting in the shutdown a week ago.
A member of the leadership, Boyce Makodi, assured community members that they can put their trust in them.
“We guarantee the community that there will not be any repetition of what happened in 2018, where the frontrunners were using the community,” said Makodi.
Menda Ntshanyang said that the “splinter group” were “wolves in sheep skins”.
David Kok from Roodepan lamented that the community’s grievances were once again being used for the benefit of politicians.
“Our fight was for transparency on how the [R500m] funds were going to be used and that it should benefit the relevant people. The next thing the engagements are being held behind closed doors,” said Kok.
“Looking closely at those who form part of the engagements, none of the vulnerable communities are represented.
“Our images were tainted by the media and we were accused of having political agendas.
“We were shot at by the police. Some of us were arrested in the fight for better services. Then the next thing opportunists, who have been selling us out to politicians, are hand-picked to represent us.”
Various community meetings are now expected to follow in different wards, where the community members will give the mandate on the way forward.
Kok said the establishment of the community steering committee was aimed at ensuring a transparent process.
Thomas-Abrahams meanwhile expressed disappointment around the negative comments from the community regarding the continued engagements.
“This office notes with disappointment the many negative comments, in some cases from clandestine accounts, on social media,” she said.
“The premier wishes to make it patently clear that he has always promoted and encouraged dialogue with any person or organisation with a genuine and vested interest in building a modern, growing and successful Province and city.”