‘The ANC taught us to protest’

2014-02-09 06:00

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Dumisani Sibanyoni says the ANC taught him that protesting was the only way to get government’s attention.

“People never got this liberation with talks. ANC taught people how to fight with the government. Now that it is their turn they are shocked?”

The 40-year-old resident of Ekangala, outside Bronkhorstspruit, and his neighbours went on the rampage last week, burning a library and a satellite police station. This week, they burnt down a clinic and the home of a woman who refused to take part, all because they don’t want to live in Tshwane.

In Tshwane, they say, electricity is expensive, and the council and its mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa hasn’t given them the deeds to their houses.

Their anger has been building for the past five years.

“We were never consulted about this merger and we don’t want it. All our problems started then,” Sibanyoni said before a community meeting on Wednesday.

“The municipality gave us an MMC (member of the mayoral committee) from agriculture to accept our memorandum. What is that? We are not from the farms. We want Sputla [Ramokgopa] to come and address us. But instead, he disrespects us and tells us that we are uneducated and smoke nyaope,” said Petros Molobola, the chairperson of the Concerned Residents of Ekangala group.

On Wednesday, the councillors called a meeting at the Ekangala community hall for 4pm to discuss residents’ grievances.

The day before, 33 protesters were arrested for public violence.

Residents waited for an hour and a half, but their councillors didn’t arrive.

A woman said: “The reason we burn things down is because the councillors don’t want to listen to us.”

Another added: “I just saw the mayor on TV saying the meeting was cancelled and he wasn’t coming.”

The hundreds who had gathered, many of them teenagers, screamed and raising their fists in response to everything Molobola said.

“Everything has to come to a standstill until our demands are met!” he yelled, after saying how disappointed he was that residents continued to go to work and school.

Sibanyoni took his turn: “We need to decide what we are going to do now. The councillors are not going to come to us, they haven’t all this time. There is no turning back. We must go back out there.”

And so they went, the voices of those who suggested that another meeting be arranged with the councillors drowned out.

As the sun set, the people marched on the police station, lighting tyres and burning rubbish.

“This is how ANC did it during apartheid ... This is the only language government understands,” said Sibanyoni.

They barricaded streets to prevent residents who had gone to work from returning. As a woman drove in, the crowd banged on a car, rocking it and screaming into her window. They only stopped when a reporter told them there was a child inside.

As night wore on, more and more police arrived but residents were not giving up.

On Friday, Sibanyoni said a meeting with Ramokgopa had been arranged for tomorrow.

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