“We feel sorry for the protesters, they are always asking us to make use of our toilets”
ANGRY Ward 8 residents are calling for the removal of their ward councillor, Charles Ngoma, citing service delivery concerns as their main bone of contention.
The residents took to the streets in protest on Monday. Five suspects were arrested by the Kagisho police after roads near the Northern Cape Provincial Legislature were blocked on Monday. They appeared in the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court yesterday on charges of public violence.
The police fired rubber bullets, stun grenades and water cannons on Monday during the protest, with frustrated protesters joining residents from Club 2000 in blockading the roads and demanding that Premier Zamani Saul and Sol Plaatje executive mayor Patrick Mabilo address them.
Nearby homeowners feared for their safety, claiming that the police were recklessly shooting and firing water cannons.
“We feel sorry for the protesters, they are always asking us to make use of our toilets,” said one homeowner.
Residents said that a two-year-old toddler was caught in the crossfire when a water cannon was fired.
The police were also accused of arresting a mother who was on her way from fetching her children from school and crèche.
Police spokesperson Captain Bashaobile Kale said the accused were released on bail of R200 each and were warned to appear in court on March 11.
“The woman who was arrested was released on warning by the police as she was breastfeeding at the time of arrest,” said Kale.
He added that the police had intervened yesterday and convinced community members to stop demolishing “ghost shacks” and to rather engage with the Sol Plaatje Municipality.
Community member Kagisho Pholoholo stated that six ghost shacks were demolished by residents yesterday.
“The structures are being used as drug dens and for criminal activities. We were told that 800 shacks need to be voluntarily relocated to Kanana while there are over 1 600 people staying here and nobody wants to leave. Our cause is not political because members of different political parties reside here,” said Pholoholo.
The community marched to the Sol Plaatje housing unit yesterday to hand over a petition.
They blamed Ngoma for being “too busy” to listen to their concerns and claimed that voters were bribed with food parcels and chicken braai packs.
“Now we are stuck with relieving ourselves in buckets in our shacks while he stays in a mansion. His house is encircled by an electric fence and is guarded by cameras. The only development in the area is a gravel road that was built, leading to the voting station.
The residents said they have been living in the informal settlement for over six years without flush toilets and electricity. “The settlement only has three communal taps.
“Our children are exposed to the filth-filled buckets inside the shacks.”
They added that their shacks were too cramped and posed a fire hazard.
“The municipal demarcation landed us in Ward 8, where no progress has been made with service delivery.
“We have been neglected ever since Ngoma took over as ward councillor. He only concentrates on the settlement that is closer to his home in terms of service delivery. Every year there is a budget and yet still there is no development.”
According to the residents, Ngoma failed to convene community meetings and was either attending municipal meetings or occupied with work obligations at the Department of Education.
They are considering electing an independent ward councillor who is not affiliated to any political party.
Ngoma told the protesters on Monday that he was a victim of “political sabotage” in an attempt to prevent him from contesting the position of chairperson of the ANC Frances Baard region.
He also insisted that he did attend to his duties as ward councillor.
“There were no signs of violence or disruptions when I addressed residents on Monday morning. There is service delivery and money was spent to build an access road,” Ngoma said.
Ngoma stated that Madiba Park was overcrowded and that residents were requested to voluntarily relocate to Kanana.
“The town planning layout demarcated 400 erven for shacks, while there are over 1 600 people living here, creating a safety risk in the event of fire. A number of illegal shacks have been erected in the area and plots are being sold while the rentals are free of charge. I asked the planning section to incorporate a total of 800 stands. The land is rocky and I went to waterworks to arrange for the provision of water tanks.”
He pointed out that the area had recently been incorporated into Ward 8 and that service delivery could not happen overnight.
“Sol Plaatje municipality is facing financial difficulty and the reserves have run dry. I am doing everything possible to ensure that there is service delivery. I also raised the issue of the ghost shacks. However, there are procedures that need to be followed before someone’s home is demolished. I would rather become unpopular for doing the right thing.”
Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie pointed out that Madiba Park had been designed to accommodate 400 sites for Soul City residents.
“Other community members illegally moved there and occupied land without the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s permission or knowledge. A list of ghost shacks will be submitted to the Housing Support Centre and verified by Sol Plaatje officials before any demolition can take place.”
Matsie stated that the municipality would have to identify other residential areas for the extra shacks at Madiba Park, as Lerato Park was currently full.
He added that temporary toilets and communal taps had been installed by the municipality. “The community vandalised the toilets.
“Madiba Park has been incorporated into the new Integrated Development Plan.”
The spokesperson for the ANC Frances Baard region, Tshepo Louw, said that the Regional Executive Committee would hold a meeting today to deal with the surge in service delivery protests.
“The ANC will then engage with communities. The ANC is concerned about the increasing number of violent community protests that take place across the region. Violent protests are completely unacceptable in a democratic society, as they are characterised by destruction of community facilities and the blocking of roads,” said Louw.
“While we acknowledge the constitutional right of every citizen to express their concerns freely, lawlessness will not be condoned under any circumstances. We call on our people to exercise their rights in a peaceful and orderly manner.”