“This is only the start,” warns community leader after protests erupt in city
WHILE protesters in the city are hoping to attract the attention of President Cyril Ramaphosa when he leads the 2021 national Freedom Day celebrations in Botshabelo in the Free State on Tuesday, his office has indicated that he has no plans to visit Kimberley.
Acting presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale said on Monday that the commemorative event is the only item on the president’s itinerary on Tuesday.
Seale said that he had “nothing more to add” regarding the situation in Kimberley.
Freedom Day celebrations have been cancelled due to service delivery protests in the Frances Baard district.
Meanwhile, Sol Plaatje Municipality stated on Monday that no refuse removal or fixing of water valves would take place in areas where protests have erupted.
The spokesperson for the United Community of Sol Plaatje Municipality (UCSPM), David Kok, stated that the protests that flared up on Monday are “only the start”.
“Actions will escalate into a total blackout by the end of the week. No entry or exit, including food and supplies, to the city will be permitted,” said Kok.
“Those who are not physically protesting should stay at home and must not report for work for the next few days so that everyone can benefit. Businesses and mines should be shut.
“People were shot, injured and arrested while protesting peacefully for a worthy cause. No property or vehicles were damaged, only tyres were set alight – which is common practice during protest action.
“We would not have been in this situation if the municipality was not so incompetent.”
Kok believed that any attempt by local government to intervene at this stage, amounted to nothing more than “empty promises”.
“Since President Cyril Ramaphosa’s last visit to Kimberley in 2018, nothing has improved. The time for talkshops and engaging with provincial government has passed. From now on we will only speak to the president. As he will be in Bloemfontein on Tuesday, he should stop over in Kimberley to witness the deterioration of services in the city.”
Kok went on to say that community representatives would accompany municipal teams to attend to service delivery complaints in areas where protests are taking place.
“Teams will be allowed to collect refuse, repair water pipes and fix electricity problems. We will accompany them and act as marshals to hold them accountable and ensure that the work is done. They must report to us because we are tired of calling the municipality.”
The UCSPM community forum wants the Sol Plaatje council to be dissolved immediately. It is aggrieved that community representatives were excluded from forming part of the steering committee of the technical task team that was formed to oversee the management of the R500 million that was allocated by the premier to improve services.
ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga said that ANC regional and provincial officials and the entire ANC caucus would give “marching orders” to Sol Plaatje municipal officials on Tuesday.
“We have noted the concerns from residents in relation to the potholes, refuse collection, water problems and sewerage blockages. The ANC is committed to make sweeping changes in the municipality to address the service delivery challenges and poor management,” said Ngxanga.
“All citizens have a human right to receive basic services and sanitation. We believe that this unfortunate situation can be overcome by working together with civil groups to address the problems.”
Ngxanga indicated that a series of meetings would be held with community groups. “This will serve as a guide to improve the operations at the Sol Plaatje Municipality.”
He also reminded residents to protest in a “responsible manner”.
“While communities have a right to protest, it comes with a responsibility to guard and protect, without causing any form of damage, which may further hamper service delivery.”
The Office of the Premier assured the public that provincial government was doing everything in its power to intervene and improve service delivery in the city.
Premier Zamani Saul has committed half a billion rand to fix the city’s infrastructure and improve services, where R180 million would be set aside to fix internal roads, R20 million for sewage spillages and water leakages, while R15 million would be used to clean the city, remove illegal dumps and clear vegetation.
A total of R44 million has been allocated for temporary residential units for households affected by flooding.
The social housing development in Hull Street has been allocated R144 million, while R53 million has been allocated for the purchase of land along the N12.
The spokesperson for the Office of the Premier, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, said the task team was finalising the work schedule.
“It will only be fair to allow government and the municipality to conclude its consultations, as the work cannot be completed overnight,” said Thomas-Abrahams.
“The Premier, Dr Zamani Saul, calls on the community to exercise restraint and to take government into their confidence. We have been open and honest in dealing with the roll-out of repairs and unscheduled and emergency situations that occurred.”