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Sol task team to ‘heal’ city

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“This team will assist the council to convey a message of healing and restoration to the communities.”

HEALING HANDS: The Sol Plaatje City Council has now established a task team comprising of local business, religious and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to address the chaos of the recent protests. Picture: Danie van der Lith

THE SOL Plaatje City Council has established a multi-sectoral task team to reach out to the community and douse the smouldering embers following last week’s looting, destruction and chaos.

The manager in the Office of the Mayor, George Mosimane, said that the task team, which includes representatives from business, the religious fraternity and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), will assist the municipality in calming communities and rebuilding the city.

“This is not just a municipal challenge but a community challenge,” Mosimane pointed out. “The sectors included in the task team are working with the community and have a direct link to them. They are not only representing the community but are part of the community.

“The members of the task team will form part of a number of programmes and meetings which will look at what went wrong in the city over the past week.

“This team will assist the council to convey a message of healing and restoration to the communities.”

Mosimane said a decision was taken to establish the task team following meetings with the three different sectors this week.

“Different views and concerns were raised by the three sectors during these meetings but we all reached the consensus that stability for the city should be urgently addressed through engagement with the communities,” he said.

The members of the task team said they would convey three key messages to the community.

“The task team will extend an invitation to the other relevant stakeholders to assist in the process. We will also embark on a series of meetings with relevant and affected members. What must be conveyed clearly is that the municipality is very committed to restoring stability in the city.”

The eight-member task team was confident that by holding various engagements with the community, similar incidents to those that played out last week would be avoided in the future.

“We will address the looting that occurred during the (protest) march, which was supposed to have been peaceful. We will address what should be done to avoid these types of events from happening in the future. There are social issues, like poverty and unemployment, that are among the reasons some people resorted to looting. We will find a peaceful resolution with the help of the communities.”

The members said that their only focus was to find a resolution for all parties involved.

“We will not engage in political battles. We are only assisting in bringing stability back to the city and we will work and engage with the Province to find solutions to the problems the communities face.”

Mosimane could not give a clear indication on whether there are any precautions in place to prevent any future protest chaos.

“The march was supposed to be peaceful, which was the reason the municipality gave the organisers the green light to go ahead. This is a clarion call for all parties to come to an understanding. There have been a vast number of issues, which first started with the electricity tariff and later evolved to the resignation of the municipal mayor and chief financial officer (CFO). The issues were continuously changing. We do, however, need to establish what it is exactly that the communities want,” he said.

Besides the 65 councillors, each ward in Kimberley has a 10-man ward committee, who receive a stipend of R1 000 each a month and whose function it is to act as a liaison between the council and the community.

“Ward committees are meant to encourage participation by the community – their job is to make municipal council aware of the needs and concerns of residents and to keep people informed of the activities of municipal council,” one city resident pointed out.

“Where are the ward committee members and why do we need another committee to do what is essentially their work? The impression I am getting here is that councillors, who are the very people who should be discussing the concerns of communities with the communities, are too scared to meet their constituents. So now they are trying to abdicate their responsibilities.

“Even if you try, you cannot get to see the mayor or a mayoral committee member – they are too busy sitting in their offices at the municipality to go out to the people and hear their concerns.

“What is this task team actually going to do? What can they say that the mayor and his councillors can’t say to the people themselves?”