DA leader Helen Zille says it’s up to Sterkspruit residents to ensure the opposition’s Eastern Cape leader, Athol Trollip, becomes premier in next year’s general elections.
Zille was invited to Sterkspruit by a group of disgruntled residents who want their own municipality.
Currently, the town is part of the Senqu Municipality, which includes other towns like Lady Grey and Barkly East.
Sterkspruit, which lies on the border between South Africa and Lesotho, has been rocked by violent protests in recent months.
It was completely shut down in February and a 16-year-old boy was shot and killed by police.
Richard Baloyi, minister of cooperative governance, MEC for local government and traditional affairs Mlibo Qoboshiyane and Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet have visited the town several times, but residents are still unhappy.
They say the water supply is erratic, there aren’t enough houses or clinics and the roads are in a bad state.
On Friday, hundreds of DA supporters painted the town blue and packed the Bensonvale College Hall to capacity.
Zille could not offer them much, although she promised to take their complaints to President Jacob Zuma.
But she urged residents to change their vote if they wanted real change.
“You are still not free here in the Eastern Cape and here in Sterkspruit. But if you vote for the DA, freedom will come to you.”
The ANC labelled Zille’s visit to the troubled town nothing but an “opportunistic tour”.
Provincial secretary Oscar Mabuyane said the ANC government, working with authorities in Sterkspruit, was attending to residents’ issues and there was no need for Zille to interfere.
“As the ANC, we are watching her opportunistic visit with keen interest.
“And we are amazed by her acts of desperation,” Mabuyane said.