Residents fume over ‘empty promises’

2017-06-02 13:51
Angry Sobantu residents on Thursday morning barricaded the main entrance into the township with burning firewood and tyres.

Angry Sobantu residents on Thursday morning barricaded the main entrance into the township with burning firewood and tyres. (Thabang Mathebula)

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Disgruntled Sobantu residents are “fed-up and tired of empty promises”.

Nearly 2 000 residents on Thursday barricaded the main entrance going into the township with burning tyres and firewood in a service delivery protest.

Thick acrid smoke could be seen from a distance hanging over the area.

The residents demand, among other things, that the municipality abolishes the 40% deduction from the amount they pay for prepaid electricity, as it has become unaffordable for them.

They also threatened to intensify their protest action if the municipality continues to ignore their demands.

Wards 35 residents, under ANC councillor Sandile Dlamini, said they are tired of waiting for the fulfilment of empty promises from the municipality’s officials.

Many attempts to get hold of Dlamini failed.

However, it is understood that the ANC’s Moses Mabhida region secretary Mzi Zuma arrived at Sobantu shortly after police dispersed the crowd yesterday to address the community.

Women took to the forefront of the protest, braving the morning cold, holding placards and shouting at the armed police, “Kill us if you want to, we are not fighting with you. We want better service.” In fear of victimisation, some residents covered their work uniforms with other clothes until the protest was cleared so they could then go to work.

Pupils and teachers coming into Sobantu from other areas were left stranded as they were not allowed in. Lessons were also suspended for the day.

Residents said deputy mayor Thobani Zuma had promised them that the 40% deductions on their prepaid electricity, which they have pleading with the municipality to abolish for the past three years, would be done away with. They said these were halted in an attempt to woo them to vote during last year’s local government elections campaign.

But the deductions were later reinstated.

They also demanded an explanation from the municipality on why the 1 000 housing units they were promised five years ago had not been delivered.

Calm was restored when the Public Order Police used stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.

By 9 am traffic started moving in and out of the township as normal.

Three people suffered rubber bullet injuries.

“This is just the beginning,” shouted one of the protesters while running away from the armed police officers.

“We want Thobani Zuma to come here and explain why the promises he made to us before the election have not been fulfilled yet.

“Sobantu is the oldest township in Pieter­maritzburg but there is no development here.

“We tried everything. We even marched to the City Hall but nothing changed,” said one of the protesters’ leaders who did not want to be named.

Municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said she was unaware of the protest when The Witness called, and failed to respond to questions sent to her.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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