'Please don't destroy what we're trying to build' - Stellenbosch municipality manager begs protesters

2018-06-21 20:32
Midas Wanana,  Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, community leader (Jenni Evans, News24)

Midas Wanana, Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, community leader (Jenni Evans, News24)

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The Stellenbosch municipality has temporarily removed an area manager, after hundreds of Kayamandi residents stood outside the mayor's office on Thursday to demand his removal.

"My concern is for all the residents of Stellenbosch, and for that reason I have indicated to your representatives that I will move Mr [Cameron] Macaku from Kayamandi till the end of this month," said municipal manager Geraldine Mettler.

She said she would launch a formal investigation into complaints about the area manager once she had received submissions to support their complaints.

"I can only do so (investigate) if you provide me with evidence. So, I am requesting you to please provide [me] with that evidence before the end of this month," said Mettler.

A Metro police officer translated her statement into isiXhosa.

Mettler added an additional plea: "Please help us deliver services in Kayamandi. So, please don't destroy what we're trying to build."

Protest leader Midas Wanana said that they wanted Macaku removed because he was "causing conflict" in the community.

Concerns over the upgrades

This was over a temporary relocation area (TRA) set up for residents who have to move to enable upgrades to the places where they live in the densely-populated suburb on the outskirts of Stellenbosch.

Comment from Macaku was not immediately available but Wanana said residents were scared that, if they moved to the TRA, they would be left there and would never be able to move back to the improved area.

"We will just go from shack to shack," he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Kayamandi during the ANC's 2016 local government campaign trail. It is a densely-populated area of about 30 000 residents living in colourfully-painted shacks along steep, narrow roads.

Earlier, Mayor Gesie Van Deventer told News24 that the municipality had approved almost R90m for improvements to Kayamandi.

However, she felt that the plans were not well understood, leading to at least five different groups making different allegations.

A pamphlet was produced, and officials had planned to do a walkabout and distribute leaflets containing all of the information on Thursday night to present the municipality's plans.

She said that 321 temporary structures were planned for Kayamandi residents, at a cost of R17m, for the upgrades to happen. "Blocks" were designated into numbered zones.

"The concept is that residents would be moved there while we are building their new houses, replacing their old structures where they currently live," the pamphlet said.

This process would be repeated until all of the zones had been upgraded, but the mayor also wanted a list of backyarders to see how many people would need houses.

A few weeks ago, a hall in Kayamandi was broken into and a community meeting was called.

About 90 of the TRA structures on municipal land were damaged and the council had to pay for private protection services on the land, which is now vacant. There was also an attempt by some people to move on to privately-owned land nearby, and that led to further unrest as evictions there were ordered by the private land owner. A municipal electrification project was also suspended.

Van Deventer said R89.2m had been budgeted for upgrades to Kayamandi, on the outskirts of the town, for the period between 2018 and 2021, but work could not continue during the unrest.

The municipality could also be liable for the payment of penalties to the contractors appointed because of the delays.

She said the temporary relocation was arranged because the existing shacks were so densely built. They have to minimise the risk of danger to residents while electrical cables and other infrastructure is being laid.

In the meantime, Van Deventer is trying to find money in the budget to buy private land to accommodate more people, but this process is still in its early stages.

'Money could be better spent'

But Wanana said the money spent on the TRA would have been better spent on building more houses.

The community is also deeply fearful of being "dumped" in the TRA and never returning to their original sites at Kayamandi.

However, after Mettler's announcement, he said the first step had been taken to resolving the community's grievances.

"At least. At least," he said. "That's a starting point."  

"About the housing, we are going to deal with that at a later stage."

He added that it was annoying that they were only taken seriously when television cameras and media arrived.

Corruption allegations

The municipality also announced earlier this week that it had entered the second phase of a forensic investigation into allegations of impropriety against municipal officials, by confiscating certain laptops and computers, as part of an investigation launched in 2017.

After Mettler's announcement and a debriefing by leaders to protesters, Kayamandi residents walked back home.

The protest did not appear to disrupt Stellenbosch and, apart from a few traffic diversions, the outdoor craft market and town life continued as usual.

Read more on:    cape town  |  land  |  service delivery

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