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The municipality cleared the land for them, but left large heaps of rubbish and soil behind with the promise that these would be removed

RESIDENTS of informal settlements in the Sol Plaatje municipal area have threatened to unite in protest and block roads in and around the city.

The threat was conveyed by residents of Scandal informal settlement, who barricaded the activity route into Galeshewe with rocks, tree stumps and rubbish early yesterday morning during a service delivery protest.

The protest follows an earlier one in Greenpoint on Monday.

During yesterday’s protest, the residents demanded to be addressed by the Sol Plaatje executive mayor, Patrick Mabilo, and the MEC for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), Bentley Vass.

The residents said that it was a peaceful protest and ambulances and police vehicles were allowed to pass.

However, the residents became more agitated in the afternoon and started burning tyres at about 3pm after receiving no response from the Mayor’s Office.

The Scandal residents started erecting shacks on the land four months ago after the community was granted approval by the Sol Plaatje Municipality to temporarily occupy the land.

After erecting their shacks they had several engagements with the municipality and the Office of the Premier, where they say they were promised that they would get basic services such as toilets and water by December.

The municipality cleared the land for them, but left large heaps of rubbish and soil behind with the promise that these would be removed.

During yesterday’s protest, the residents dismissed a delegation from the mayoral committee.

The delegation had explained to the residents that the municipality is unable to provide them with temporary toilets as the local authority owed the service provider and does not have the money to pay.

They further elaborated that water cannot be provided due to a disciplinary hearing that is under way to deal with several municipal workers in the waterworks section.

The workers are accused of sabotaging the municipality and of being behind the numerous water pipe leakages in the city.

“We are willing to work with Scandal because we know how you came to be here. You were granted permission by the municipality to have the land,” said mayoral committee member Obakeng Plaatje.

But the residents regarded all promises made as empty after they learned that the mayor went to address the protesting residents of Greenpoint early yesterday and then went to Phokwane for the by-elections that were held there.

A Scandal community representative, Lawrence Mkhwanazi, expressed his disappointment to Plaatje regarding the manner in which the residents are being “disregarded” after trying to follow all the correct channels.

“We are sick and tired of being dragged into the mayor and his committee’s political battles. We will never be part of their political infighting and sabotaging each other,” said Mkhwanazi. “Our mayor leaves his responsibility behind and rushes to Phokwane in order to secure the ANC leadership in the wards there. What about us who elected him in?

“Thus, we are sending you back to your office to ensure that the mayor gets here to do his work. We will not tolerate his arrogance.”

A Scandal resident, Betty Sekoya, lashed out at the municipal delegation, saying that the community has to live among snakes and rats with their children and elderly people.

She pointed out that the entire community has to access water from just one water pipe.

Another resident, Poppie Beukes, said that criminals hide behind the dumps that were left behind when the area was cleared.

The owners of the RDP houses next to the informal settlement also joined the protest and raised concerns about the water canal that is not being maintained.

“Sewage is running through the streets and into the canal, causing an unbearable stench,” said Beukes.

The Office of the Mayor failed to respond to media enquiries by the time of going to print.

Coghsta said that it was not its prerogative to attend to protest action but that of the Mayor’s Office.