2011-04-23 19:51

The roads are full of potholes.

Tap water has to be filtered before drinking it and the youth are still roaming the streets because they are not employed.

These were some of the reasons why residents of Siyathemba in Balfour, Mpumalanga, took to the streets in 2009 and again last year.

They burned a satellite police station and a library to vent their frustration. Hundreds were arrested. President Jacob Zuma visited the town twice but there was little improvement.

Residents wanted Dipaleseng’s mayor, Mabalane Tsotetsi, ousted but he is on the ANC list of councillors for the local government elections.

ANC Youth League leader Zakhele Maya said their anger at the time of the protests was against the council for not being responsive to residents’ needs for services.

“This anger has now changed and the people have spoken,” Maya said.

In five of the six wards the community gave its backing to candidates standing as independent candidates to fight the ANC head-on in the elections.

For some residents such as 28-year-old Sifiso Nkosi unemployment is still a major concern.

Balfour has a gold mine, a power station and in its vicinity is one of the country’s biggest beef producers but Nkosi said the community was overlooked in favour of outsiders.

Theirs was a struggle to find employment, but there was also no end in sight to other problems.

Healthcare was a major concern and the residents have forced government to sign a memorandum of understanding between Gauteng and Mpumalanga on health service provision.

Residents have to drive 80km to Standerton because the nearby Heidelberg hospital was out of bounds.

Residents also want the town incorporated into Gauteng – because its provincial capital Joburg is closer than that of Mpumalanga.

They also believed they would be better serviced in Gauteng than in Mpumalanga. 

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