Uitenhage protesters march on memorial service

Shackdwellers say promises of electricity have not been kept

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Photo of four men
From left: Mayco member for Infrastructure and Engineering Andile Lungisa, Councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies, Mayco Member for Human Settlements Andile Mfunda, and Human Settlements Director Thembakazi Hlela address protesters from Bobani Village demanding electrification. Photo: Thamsanqa Mbovane

Uitenhage protesters marched on a memorial service for late councillor Bicks Ndoni on Wednesday, delaying the service while they discussed their grievances with government representatives.

Earlier the protesters blocked major roads and threw rubbish into the yard of the local councillor, saying promises to electrify the settlement of Bobani Village had not been kept.

The rubbish was thrown into the yard of ward 45 councillor Siphiwo Plaatjies (ANC) during a protest in KwaNobuhle township.

Residents burnt tyres outside the councillor’s house, chanting his name, and then went on to burn tyres on busy Rocklands Road. They were demanding that Bobani Village, which has more than 3,000 shacks, be electrified. Bobani Village was named by its residents after then mayor Mongameli Bobani, when they started the settlement on empty land in February last year.

Protesters blocked the route to Humansdorp, Jeffrey’s Bay, George, and Knysna. They threatened motorists, chicken truck drivers, and bus drivers, saying they should use alternative routes rather than “disturbing” the protesters. Songs of “Amabhulu amnyama andenziwari” (Black boers make me worried) echoed through the bush.

Xolani Cutshe, a committee member at Bobani Village, said Plaatjies had told residents to wait until Friday for a report-back.

“We refused to wait and told him we will keep the fires burning. Last year on 5 December, he came with other senior municipal officials from Human Settlements and all of them promised to electrify Bobani Village. But up until now the councillor and the officials have not given us answers. They play hide and seek.”

He said Bobani Village had only ten mobile toilets and, because there is no lighting, residents were vulnerable to theft and rape at night. Fires were frequent and some people including children had died.

Siyabonga Fila, secretary of the village committee, said: “It’s promises after promises. When we invaded this land in January 2019, councillor Plaatjies came with his ward committee members and told us the invasion was illegal. We were saved by then mayor Mongameli Bobani who urged us to invade.”

Plaatjies told GroundUp there would be a special council meeting on Thursday 30 January.

“We do have money to do electrification … but we need to follow certain procedures.”

“In our last meeting with residents, we told their committee they must stop people from invading the land because those who have invaded already are enough. The area is becoming more dense.” He said people are building four shacks on plots that can only accommodate one.

He said there were criminal elements within the protesters. “Those who threw rubbish in my yard are out of order.”

Later, the protesters moved towards Babs Madlakane Hall, where a memorial service was to be held for Ndoni.

A police Nyala was parked nearby on Jabavu Road and ANC regional co-ordinator Luyolo Nqakula approached the protesters accompanied by the police. One of the protesters said they were not there to disrupt the service but to expose “those who promised us electricity and failed to fulfil their promises.”

Mayco Member for Infrastructure and Engineering Andile Lungisa said he had just come from a meeting to discuss problems in the Bobani area.

He said, “We are not like other politicians who make promises that they will bring you electricity and water but fail to do so. We will fulfill our promise,” he said,” promising a survey of the area to prepare for electricity.

Fila said protests would continue until the survey started.

TOPICS:  Government Housing

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