Richmond residents want mayor, speaker out

2013-10-17 00:00

THE simmering tensions in the Richmond area will only be brought under control by the ousting of the town’s political leadership, some residents believe.

Some community members want the mayor Andrew Ragavaloo, the speaker of the municipality Thulani Shabalala, and two other councillors to vacate their council seats.

The town has been on tenterhooks for the past few months with violent incidents including the shooting at Ragavaloo’s house and the torching of Shabalala’s car.

Yesterday, a group of about 150 residents protested outside court where eight men charged with malicious damage to property and arson appeared. The charges stem from the damage to a councillor’s house and the burning of Shabalala’s car.

They described the court appearance as a joke, saying the men had appeared in court several times since last week and each time the charges were dismissed due to lack of evidence.

They did not mince their words, saying they wanted Ragavaloo and Shabalala out.

“We are tired of this leadership. Ragavaloo has been in power for 19 years … What we are now saying is that we want the mayor and his speaker to relinquish power and make way for people who are willing to work with the community,” said a member of the community.

They claimed the challenges began over a year ago when the South African Communist Party (SACP) engaged in the “Know your neighbour campaign” where they went to different areas documenting service delivery issues.

“We found there were serious issues such as the lack of infrastructure, a shortage in the delivery of water and sanitation, and other issues.”

Since then, the community and the leadership have been at loggerheads, with community members accusing the leadership of systematically targeting those who speak out on behalf of the community.

“Most of these people appearing in court here today are members of the community and often speak out against the problems; they are now arrested … the first arrest was last Thursday after they spoke out during a community meeting on Sunday,” a member said.

Municipal speaker Thulani Shabalala said he was not aware that the community wanted him out.

However, a document seen by The Witness detailing a meeting between ANC regional leadership and the community makes it clear that the community wanted the speaker and a fellow councillor out of the municipality.

Attempts to speak to Ragavaloo were unsuccessful yesterday.

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