North West violent protests shut down Botswana border

2017-03-19 06:01
Service-delivery protest in Makgobistad in North West. Picture: Poloko Tau

Service-delivery protest in Makgobistad in North West. Picture: Poloko Tau

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The ANC has itself to blame for the ongoing service-delivery protests, says the governing party’s alliance partner, the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco), after villages surrounding Mahikeng and a border post into Botswana were shut down this whole week owing to violent service-delivery protests.

Run-down roads and lack of consistent water supply appeared to be the most common grievances in these villages. Schooling was also affected in a wave of protests sweeping through Ngaka Modiri Molema district municipality this week that saw workers from Makgobistad village who work or study in Mahikeng trapped. Angry communities blocked the roads between Mahikeng and Vryburg as well as the Lichtenburg road connecting Ventersdorp, Johannesburg and Potchefstroom.

Packet Seaketso, Sanco provincial secretary in North West, blamed “infighting between political officials in government, tender irregularities and poor consultation with communities” for the protests, saying these were the root causes of service-delivery problems in the province. As a result, the political relations with the ANC were seriously strained, such that their civic organisation was considering severing ties.

“The punishment for the ANC is coming in the 2019 elections, unless things change now. If the ANC can’t change in the way they deal with us and get back to the basics of providing better services for our people, then as Sanco in the North West we have no other option but to run solo in 2019,” he said.

“People are looking at officials living the high life and driving big cars while they struggle with basic needs such as water. We have been disregarded in many instances as the alliance partner and soon we’re going to host a provincial leadership meeting where we will decide whether it is still necessary or relevant to work with the ANC in this province,” he said.

Residents also complained about a library that was constructed about six years ago, but remained a white elephant as it was not operational. The contractor, Mothusi Mothusi, said the library could not be used because of an outstanding payment due to him by the municipality.

Community leader Themba Marose said the villages around Makgobistad have heard endless promises of basic service delivery but to no avail, and especially the failure of municipalities to provide reliable water infrastructure.

“We don’t have proper roads ... not even properly maintained gravel roads exist. The tarred road leading into the village is the most potholed road in the whole province,” Marose said.

“The community has waited for decades. We’re not going to rest until someone takes us seriously and responds to our demands, which are for basic rights such as water,” he said.

In Makgobistad village, the road leading to Bray from Mahikeng and a border post into Botswana were also blocked by angry residents demanding road upgrades and maintenance, among other things. Several police and private vehicles were pelted with stones and damaged.

Seaketso said Sanco warned the ANC in the province that it couldn’t ignore communities forever and that he had foreseen the escalation of service-delivery protests in the province, including at least four big ones in Ngaka Modiri Molema district municipality this week.

The media was barred from speaking to protesters at Blydeville township in Lichtenburg where several foreigner-owned shops were looted during this week’s violent protests. A resident known only as Lionel said: “People are really angry that we are stuck in poor living conditions and all we hear in the news is that money will be spent on erecting a statue for President Jacob Zuma.

“Why spend money on a statue when people are still struggling to get proper sanitation or access to water? Who takes priority here: a Zuma statue or the people?” he said.

The protester was referring to media reports that the North West government was planning to erect an estimated R6 million statue for Zuma in Groot Marico where he was arrested 52 years ago.

The provincial government has since refuted the reported amount, saying the number six was misconstrued as it was related to the height of the statue in metres.

But they would not say how much was to be spent on the project, which is already out on tender.

Back in Makgobistad, youth leader Obusitse Tlhabudugwane said they had met with Mayor Justice Makolomakwa who accepted the community’s memorandum of demands.

“The mayor was given seven working days to respond. We are clearing the roads and opening for traffic from [Friday], but we will not hesitate to go back to the streets if our government continues to ignore us,” Tlhabudugwane said.

The North West provincial government has condemned violent protests where property was damaged.

“The provincial government calls on communities to desist from violent protests as they reverse the gains made so far in the local government sector. We call on the community of Blydeville not to allow criminal elements to target businesses owned by foreign nationals because this is against the law,” said provincial government spokesperson Brian Setswambung.

“The local government and human settlement department  is currently providing support to municipalities that experience challenges so they are able to deliver on the service delivery needs of communities. This intervention puts in place immediate, short term and medium term measures that are mitigating the existing challenges in municipalities such as Ratlou and Ditsobotla.”

On water issues raised by the protesting community of Makgobistad, Setswambung said: “Sedibeng Water was on site at Makgobistad and only managed to fix one borehole because they were chased away by the community. They need to be given a chance to do their work in resolving the water challenge.

“The memorandum submitted to the municipality by residents of Ratlou is receiving attention and the municipality will provide feedback as soon. as possible.”

* This article was amended on March 20 2017 to include the provincial government's response to the situation.

Read more on:    north west  |  service delivery protests

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