ANC asks for patience amid protests

2012-03-20 19:45
Johannesburg - In the midst of ongoing violent protests across the country, the ANC government urged South Africans to be patient.

"We know people are impatient with the pace of service delivery but government is constrained," ANC spokesperson Keith Khoza said on Tuesday.

He said one of the ANC's priorities at its last lekgotla was to release resources.

"People must understand there may be delays, but the commitment was there."

On the eve of Human Rights Day, protests erupted in Sharpeville because the main celebrations were not happening there, where apartheid police shot dead black protesters in 1960, but in Soweto.

People also took to the streets in Grabouw, in the Western Cape; Heidelberg, east of Johannesburg; and Phola township in Ogies, Mpumalanga, for a variety of reasons this week.

Overcrowding

Trying to lessen tension about overcrowding in schools in Grabouw, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga also asked for patience.

"It is quite sad that residents are misled into believing that government can eradicate the legacy of inhabitable buildings, lack of resources and overcrowding in our schools immediately."

Residents burned down the Umyezo wama Apile School last week, demanding additional facilities and an end to overcrowding.

On Monday, protesters also burned down two ward councillors' homes and a municipal building. Twenty-one people were arrested.

"We are working very hard to deal with the situation at that school. My colleague, Western Cape Education MEC Donald Grant, has already identified a location for a new school in the area," said Motshekga.

"I, therefore, find it unfortunate for residents to vandalise school property and intimidate learners," she said.

Cosatu said Grabouw's problems had been created by the provincial government's failure to address overcrowding.

Cowboy attitude

"It is inevitable that both learners and parents would not tolerate this situation where effective education cannot take place due to overcrowding," said Cosatu Western Cape provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich.

"The cowboy attitude of MEC Grant will not bring a solution to the crisis and he is exacerbating the tensions," he said.

Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi was expected to visit Ratanda, in Heidelberg, on Tuesday, to address the protests.

On Monday, two councillors' houses, the community hall, and a municipal office were torched. Protesters also took their frustrations out by looting foreign-owned shops.

"The MEC's aim is to assess the damage and help to bring calm back to this community," the department said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, police said hundreds of Ratanda residents continued to march in the streets. Police said 48 people had been arrested for public violence.

Standoff


Protesters also gathered outside a private company in Phola near Ogies in Mpumalanga in a standoff with the company over labour issues.

Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi said on Tuesday afternoon the situation was still tense and the police contingent had been "beefed up" to contain any outbreak of violence.

"The protest is not about service delivery, but employment at local coal mines."

Schools and health facilities in the community were closed for the second day.

"Everything is at a standstill."

He said 36 people had been arrested.

Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said there had been an increase in service delivery protests specifically related to the pace or quality of local government service delivery in 2012.

"There has been an uptick in 2012 so far... and it is likely that we will have a year that will sustain the trends of 2009-11 with widespread community protests.

She said the only difference noticed so far was that protests were tending to spread beyond metros and big cities.
- SAPA
Read more on:    donald grant  |  tony ehrenreich  |  angie motshekga  |  humphrey mmemezi  |  johannesburg  |  mbombela  |  cape town  |  soweto  |  protests  |  local government  |  service delivery
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