Theatrical protest

2013-10-09 00:00

WEARING deadpan theatrical masks, Manor flats tenants blockaded the entrance to the area with huge rocks and burning tyres yesterday morning.

They were protesting against the “oppressive” Msunduzi Municipality.

An attempt to disconnect illegal electricity supplies on Monday sparked yesterday’s protest action.

Their masks echoed those worn in V for Vendetta, a 2006 film in which V, a mysterious radical anarchist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask, works to bring down an oppressive fascist government, profoundly affecting the people he encounters.

The masks worn by counter-culture groups are a growing phenomenon and most famously have been used by Anonymous, a hacker group, as a symbol of their activism.

Resident Collin Rajah said they wore the masks to demonstrate that they wanted the municipality to know that there were prepared to fight till the end. “We are doing what the Egyptian youth did during the Arab Spring uprising,” said Rajah.

Manor tenants are alleged to owe the municipality more than R24 million in unpaid rent and municipal services.

But the municipality remains resolute on their action in the indigent area, saying they will continue with disconnection as they are owed huge sums of money by some residents, who had colluded with corrupt municipal officials.

Sibongile Mkhize, a senior citizen and former ANC councillor, said she had been living in these flats for the past 18 years. At first she paid R350 rent, but was paying R1 840 today. “Every year the rent goes up by 15%, which is an open-ended decision taken in 1998,” she said.

“We are not living in an island, we are also affected by the socioeconomic status of South Africa. We have child-headed households, unemployed graduates and pensioners residing here,” said Mkhize.

A resident who only wanted to be known as Banu, said they wanted council to bill them properly and also investigate everyone living there to see if they all qualified to do so.

“We wanted the municipality to implement the Enhancement Discount Benefit Scheme (EDBS) so that tenants who have lived here for more than 10 years can own these properties,” she said.

She said the other problem was that people inherited debts from previous tenants. “We want council to write off these debts,” she said.

Acting deputy municipal manager for economic development Dr Ray Ngcobo said the municipality would not be implementing EDBS because of people abusing the system.

“We have even suspended the manager in charge of EDBS because of the abuse in the system. I’m developing a policy around this to ensure that once we implement it we would have eliminated all loopholes, including corruption,” he said.

Ngcobo said they were not giving away flats because they wanted deserving people to get them based on their economic status.

“We are going to continue to disconnect because we are owed huge sums of money, with certain people having colluded with some of our corrupt officials,” he said.

Ngcobo said tenants needed to individually explain their cases and make payment arrangements. “Those who default after making arrangements will be evicted,” said Ngcobo.

He said they had serious challenges dealing with council property, because some of their flats were now used by slum lords, which led to maintenance difficulties.

Residents were still on the road outside the flats last night, with burning tyres blockading the entrances to the flats.

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