Wave of protest builds

2018-07-11 06:00
A mass protest action planned for this week is expected to be even more intense than the one undertaken by Sol Plaatje residents on 27 June.Photo: Christiaan Cloete

A mass protest action planned for this week is expected to be even more intense than the one undertaken by Sol Plaatje residents on 27 June.Photo: Christiaan Cloete

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A final and more intense mass action to shut down the entire Kimberley goes ahead on Thursday (12/07), following the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s failure to give in to the demands of its residents.

The municipality has not, as was demanded, fired Municipal Manager Goolam Akharwaray and Chief Financial Officer Lydia Matlhoko, who are accused of making unilateral decisions on behalf of the municipality.

Mangaliso Matika, Sol Plaatje mayor, has called on the community to report anything that the two officials might have done wrong, justifying their resignation.

“This issue of the tariffs should not be relegated to individuals, but to a proposed position of council to the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa). We must not fall into the trap of indivi­dualising this thing of the tariffs,” Matika said.

He was referring to the recent controversial proposal of a R260 basic charge on electricity that the municipality planned to implement from 1 July, on top of a 5,95% electricity tariff hike.

“I am still saying that if there is any law that they have broken, then I should be afforded that evidence so that we are able to follow other processes in holding them accountable,” he said.

Matika briefed the media after a memorandum of demands had been served to him by thousands of residents at his office’s doorstep on the morning of 27 June.

The mass action, which was aimed at shutting down the entire city and the township, was in protest of the proposed tariff changes.

The action is expected by some to receive support throughout the Frances Baard Region.

The memorandum among other things demanded the termination of a public relations contract, reportedly by Matlhoko, to market the implementation of the tariffs and mis­inform the community.

Another demand was for the municipality to stop tuck shop owners from charging an extra amount when selling electricity.

The 5,95% tariff increase has reportedly been incorporated, but not yet the R260 basic levy, while the municipality does not have anything concrete to report on an existing agreement between itself and tuck shop owners to sell electricity.

Matika said there were various factors to be consi­dered, like the vulnerability that leads to consumers buying from the tuck shop owners, due to the proximity of tuck shops and the times at which they are open for business.

Tuck shops continue to sell electricity at the same rate of an extra R1, as the municipa­lity did not put up any signs to warn residents not to pay the extra money.

Matika accused fellow politicians who stood against the tariff hike as agitating, and trying to score popularity by exploiting genuine concerns of the residents.

According to Tumelo Mosikare, co-organiser of the protest action, the residents are sick and tired of giving the “arrogant” municipality a chance to take advantage of the poor and vulnerable.

“The only way that this planned mass action will be withdrawn, is if Matlhoko and Akharwaray will step down,” said Mosikare.

“We want to stop the muni­cipality from protecting them, because even our elderly are not protected in such a way.

“They are the ones who live a luxury life while the ordinary suffer.”

Mosikare expressed his frustration by claiming that the municipality hid behind the excuse that processes needed to be followed in the axing of the two officials, while none were followed when the tariff hike was implemented.

Prior to the community’s mass action, the DA handed over a memorandum of demands related to its dis­satisfaction on the tariff hike.

The ANC in the province has applauded the stand taken by the community, which it claims reaffirms that active communities are central to its goal of better quality of life for all.

The ANC has assigned a task team that will be led by Bentley Vass, MEC for Co-operative Government, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), to monitor the progress and nature of the engagements with communities and businesses.

Deshi Ngxanga, provincial secretary, said extensive engagements should be strengthened with the involvement of Nersa.

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