ANC councillor riles residents

2012-05-07 00:00

COPESVILLE ANC councillor Thandi Ndlovu riled Indian residents at a community meeting yesterday, saying they had not voted for her and proceeding to speak in Zulu for those she said had in fact elected her.

Ndlovu put her foot in it during a meeting called by police to address the crime challenges in the area and to form a partnership.

Community members were already irate after Ndlovu arrived an hour late, although other speakers had addressed the meeting.

When given the floor, Ndlovu commented on the large number of Indian residents present, saying this was not usually the case as “Indians never attend meetings”.

This caused an uproar, which prompted Ndlovu to switch to Zulu.

One resident shouted: “We didn’t attend meetings because we didn’t know about them”.

One of Ndlovu’s comments, translated to The Witness, was that she would only speak to the African residents present, because they had voted for her.

Indian and Zulu-speaking residents in the audience then became angry. A woman in a front seat stood up and left, flailing her arms in frustration.

When confronted by The Witness to explain her position, Ndlovu did not deny the comments attributed to her.

“When we call them to meetings, they don’t come,” she said.

But Ndlovu said that she was happy to see Indian residents at yesterday’s meeting.

“I’m not fighting with them. They always come into my house and I open the door. But when they come [to the meeting] they come to make a noise,” she said.

She added that “only 25 Indians” had attended her last meeting.

She had held two meetings with the Copesville community since she was elected last year.

“I was trying to tell them that I am happy to see them and that I got a budget for them. They were not allowing me to talk, so I said let me talk to those who have voted [for the ANC].

“I’m not racist. I told them at the last meeting, even if you voted for me or not, I will help you. It’s my job.”

Mountain Rise police station commander Brigadier Francis Bantham, who called the meeting, tried to calm the crowd and asked Ndlovu to sit down.

Proceedings were disrupted for about 10 minutes, during which time Bantham was seen speaking to Ndlovu.

After the crowd was urged to calm down, Ndlovu apologised and Bantham redirected the meeting to issues of crime.

“The councillor realises that the statements she made were out of order and this meeting is concerned with issues of crime and not the statements that she made,” Bantham said.

“She apologises and didn’t realise that this was a police crime meeting and not a political meeting.”

Ndlovu was then given an opportunity to speak again and continued in Zulu, which was not translated, but which no longer appeared to be an issue with those gathered.

She spoke about the budget she had and how she wanted to start working with the people to sort out Copesville.

At the end of the meeting, a Zulu-speaking woman told the crowd the councillor was wrong and that it was not good that she had taken sides as it affected community relations.

Asked for her comment, Bantham told The Witness: “I told [the councillor] that at the end of the day you can’t talk like that.”

She added that the meeting eventually cooled down and had continued on a successful note, achieving its goal of the community coming forward to form a partnership with police.

Also in attendence at yesterday’s meeting was Pete Jugmohan, chairperson of the Community Policing Forum, a committee which acts as a liason between the police and the community.

He said that councillors needed to call ward meetings two or three times a month to engage with the people and the problems that they faced.

“Both sides are suffering in Copesville. It’s not a racial thing. Because of the rising crime, the poor people become targets and they are caught in a web.”

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Josh Maistry was upbeat after the meeting.

“Copesville responded well … We have cemented a relationship with relevant role players and the community and have establised an informer network and we want to establish a Copesville community policing sub-forum.”

• tharuna.devchand@witness.co.za

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