Makhanda shutdown protest ends after municipality obtains court order

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The chaotic three day Makhanda shutdown protest has been suspended.
The chaotic three day Makhanda shutdown protest has been suspended.
Malibongwe Dayimani
  • Makana municipality in the Eastern Cape has obtained a court interdict to block protesters from causing further mayhem in Mahkanda.
  • The protest was initially suspended on 26 May and 14 days were given to local authorities to show a plan to address service delivery demands. 
  • On Tuesday, following the expiry of the 14 day deadline, protesters took to the streets again after authorities refused to meet them, but only leaders of the protests.

The second wave of the chaotic Makhanda protest has been suspended immediately after Makana municipality obtained an interim court order preventing protesters from causing further disturbances in the university town.

The Eastern Cape High Court in Makhanda granted the embattled municipality the order on Friday, bringing two days of violence to an abrupt end.

The Unemployed People’s Movement and its leader Ayanda Kota are listed in the order, seen by News24, as first and second respondents.

READ | Covid-19: Infections rise at Eastern Cape schools as universities focus on online learning

They are ordered to end the protest immediately, and appear in court on 24 August to explain why a final order should not be granted. 

The protesters took to the streets on Wednesday and Thursday, closing schools, businesses and barricading roads with burning tyres. 

The latest protests come two weeks after an initial three-day protest was suspended to allow provincial and local government to address the demands.

Makana local municipality spokesperson Anele Mjekula said they would release a statement later regarding the court order.

The protest was initially suspended on 26 May following a meeting between MECs Xolile Nqatha, Weziwe Tikana-Gxotiwe, Mlungisi Mvoko and organisers of the protest.

READ | Residents accuse Makhanda shutdown leaders of selling out

The MECs oversee the Cogta, Transport and Finance provincial departments. 

The protesters previously agreed to give the authorities 14 days to develop a clear, tangible plan to fix potholes, supply clean and uninterrupted water, end sewage spills entering river systems, improve service delivery and maintain upkeep of the town’s infrastructure.

On Friday, one of the protest leaders Lungisa Sixaba said they had decided to suspend the protest with immediate effect in line with the court interdict.

Sixaba said they would find a lawyer to challenge the process legally.  

Sixaba said the second wave of the protest was organised after residents said they wanted to meet Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane in person to hear their demands.

"Xolile Nqatha and the other MEC returned to Makhanda on Tuesday but insisted that they will only meet us as the leaders and other stakeholders but not the residents. Residents got angry and organised the protest. They no longer want any of the MECs, they want Mabuyane in person," said Sixaba.

'We don’t want our people to get shot and arrested'

Nqatha confirmed resisting meeting the protesters, saying that meeting them was not part of the initial agreement. 

Nqatha said this was because other people with malicious intentions had hijacked the protest.  

ALSO READ |  Housing dept building set alight as protesting continues at four Eastern Cape municipalities

Sixaba said Makhanda was opened again on Friday because "we don’t want our people to get shot and arrested". 

On Friday, Nqatha said the challenges confronting Makana Local Municipality were divided into short- and long-term goals.

He said the short-term goals included constructing a the bypassing sewer system that would run behind the town.

Another short-term plan was fixing potholes, fixing streets lights, fixing high mast lights, addressing water outages, and fixing ablution facilities at the taxi rank. 

Nqatha added that the long-term project focused on fixing the decaying water infrastructure and addressing the capacity of dam levels. 

Nqatha said a technical team comprising Makana Local Municipality, Water Affairs officials, and three provincial departments was established to deal with short- and long-term plans.  

A statement from his office said: "MEC Nqatha wishes to express his deepest concern as the problems of Makhanda have been hijacked by people with nefarious political agenda. MEC Nqathaalso wishes to state that the three MECs are still committed to providing a feedback report to Makhanda people through their leaders. Government calls on law enforcement agency to restore law and order in Makhanda as some protesters are malicious." 

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