23 February 2023
More than 200 Seshego residents marched nearly ten kilometres to Polokwane city centre on Wednesday to demand an end to power outages, high utility bills and inconsistent water supply.
The group handed memoranda of demand to the municipality, Limpopo Premier’s office, Limpopo Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and Eskom.
Most of the businesses in the city centre remained closed in anticipation for the mass action. Down each street, onlookers paused to watch and some cheered them on.
There was a brief standoff between the residents and a group of ANC supporters just before the mayor addressed the crowd.
Seshego community leader, George Tembo, shouted: “Mayor, we want to raise our issues with your office but those ANC supporters are staging a countermarch. This is all about service delivery. We feel threatened.”
ANC supporter, Shabback Maphoto, said: “Once residents march to the mayor’s office, they are undermining the ANC. Those people marching are disgruntled community members who want tenders. They want to use the issue of water. We are here to defend the mayor.”
But Mayor Mosema John Mpe assured the marchers that he would listen to their grievances and said police would deal with the ANC supporters.
Resident Solly Moropana said residents held a mass march last year, hoping their intermittent water issues in Seshego would be resolved. He said the municipality only restored water to the area again three weeks ago when it received their request to picket over the issue. “We know for a fact that this will not last,” he said.
Mpe received and signed the memorandum. He promised to respond within a week and urged Seshego residents to report any water challenges immediately. He also acknowledged that power cuts also exacerbated the town’s water challenges.
Responding to questions sent by GroundUp, municipal spokesperson Matshidiso Mothapo said that the electricity and water bill rates were set by service providers Eskom and Lepelle Northern Water and therefore they could not offer “flat rates” to all households.
Mothapo said that the council has passed a budget of R52-million to complete the Seshego Water Treatment Works. “The municipality has an additional budget to purchase eight more water tankers to supply water during emergencies.”
Marchers then proceeded to the offices of the Premier, CoGHSTA, SALGA and Eskom. CoGSTA MEC Basikopo Makamu signed the memorandum, and promised to respond within seven days. At Eskom, manager Tendani Moloto signed the memorandum, demanding an end to power cuts, and promised to get back to them within a week.