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Marchers hand over demands

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"The matter is currently in court and we hope that the ruling will favour Sakkie as this was a fraudulent sale,”

Picture: Supplied

MEMBERS of the Upington community, AfriForum and a religious organisation, the Outcry of the Body of Christ, marched to the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality yesterday to express their unhappiness with service delivery.

The marchers demanded that the municipality address matters of sewage, high electricity tariffs and the issue of Sakkie se Arkie, a tourist attraction in Upington.

According to AfriForum chairperson Werner Strauss, the ZF Mgcawu District Municipality has failed to address sewage challenges, which has resulted in raw sewage flowing in the town for several months.

“The sewage is running into the canals and the river. This poses a huge health risk for the people of the town. It is also disgusting to see raw sewage flowing into the river. The municipality has done nothing to address this stinky problem,” Strauss said.

He also accused the municipality of underhandedly selling the land of Sakkie se Arkie.

“Sakkie se Arkie is a huge tourist attraction in our town. People from all over the Northern Cape and other parts of the country visit Upington to get a ride on Sakkie se Arkie. The municipality has, however, now sold the land to someone else. The matter is currently in court and we hope that the ruling will favour Sakkie as this was a fraudulent sale,” Strauss said.

He also referred to high electricity tariffs in the town.

“The municipality buys electricity at a low rate from Eskom but sells it to the community at more than double the purchase price. They are making 100% profit. This is unfair as the community, who are already impoverished, have to foot the bill,” said Strauss.

A local businesswoman, Willemina Willemse, said the sewage situation had negatively impacted her business.

“I used to run a guest house but had to close it because of the sewage. On three occasions there was raw sewage running through my house. I reported the matter several times to the municipality but nothing was done. As a result, I had to close the doors of my guest house. This was a huge financial loss for me and the municipality does not realise the implications of this problem. The sewage has been a problem in the town for more than a decade. We have had enough of our cries falling on deaf ears,” said Willemse.

A representative from Outcry of the Body of Christ, Esau Montzinger, said the religious sector decided to stand with the community as the church was also directly affected by the decisions of the municipality.

“For a very long time the community has been fighting on their own and the churches tried to be a mediator between the community and the municipality. We have tried to work with the municipality to find answers to the challenges faced by the town. The churches have, however, realised that it needs to stand with the community as the problems are not addressed or resolutions are dragged out. We have to take action against the municipality and show a united front with the community in order for our problems to be resolved,” said Montzinger.

He said a memorandum with all their demands was handed over to the municipality during the march.

“We urge the municipality to better its service delivery component, especially in terms of the sewerage and sanitation system. Currently sewage or the poor handling of it by municipalities, in respect of poor communities, is problematic. A clean environment is a must and is guaranteed by the Constitution of the country. We appeal to the municipality to pay heed to the stipulations of the Constitution regarding the right to a clean environment.”

The spokesperson for the municipality, Patrick Williams, confirmed that they had received the memorandum and said the local authority would respond timeously.

“A memorandum was handed over by the marchers and the mayor will have a look at it. We will respond to the matters tabled in the memorandum after we have read through it,” he said.

Williams added that the municipality had launched a programme to address the challenges posed by the sewerage system.

“We have a newly launched programme aimed at addressing the sewage problem the town is facing. The sewage has become a challenge to the municipality as the town has expanded over the years. We need to keep up with the growing population in the town. This problem is also often created by residents who throw all sorts of items items into the sewerage system, resulting in blockages. This is unacceptable and people need to take responsibility to make sure that the sewerage system is not blocked,” said Williams.