- Angry Enoch Mgijima Municipality residents laid siege at the venue hosting the ANC's 111th birthday celebrations and prevented delegates from entering.
- Celebrations started late as delegates waited for Public Order Police to break up the protesters.
- Residents felt the ANC's decision to take the Eastern Cape leg of the nationwide celebrations to a town where residents are subjected to unreliable and interrupted service delivery, was an insult.
Chaotic scenes erupted outside the venue hosting the Eastern Cape leg of the ANC’s nationwide 111th birthday celebrations in Komani on Saturday, after angry residents without electricity for over a month, prevented delegates from entering the glitzy event and demanded an audience with the event’s special guest Fikile Mbalula.
The protesters blockaded all entrances to the Queens Casino and Hotel forcing the ANC to call a strong contingent of Public Order Police to clear the blockade.
The gala dinner started hours after its scheduled time under heavy police presence to prevent protesters from disrupting the ruling party’s celebrations.
The residents had blockaded three entrances to the venue.
They cornered ANC Women's League provincial task team member Nokuku Princess Dube, yelling insults at her before one snatched her weave off her head and made a run for it.
The incident was captured in a video, which subsequently circulated on social media.
In the clip, residents shout, “You bloody thieves. Go with your overdone make-up” and “We are hungry” while a man can be heard encouraging others to slap the under siege Dube.
Another video later emerged showing Dube reunited with her weave alongside ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina and two other ANC Women’s League members excitedly announcing the recovery of the stolen weave in a manner which left many in stitches.
Dube told News24 she called the police to rescue her from the mob and recover her belongings.
"I was nervous at that stage of the standoff because those people surrounded me on all sides and some of them even poured alcohol on my back," she said.
The Eastern Cape ANC condemned the targeting of Dube.
ANC provincial secretary Lulama Ngcukayithobi said: “Whatever the situation is - the attack against women is viewed as very insensitive, humiliating, offensive and must be harshly condemned. These are some reminders that society must collectively fight the scourge of gender-based violence.”
The ANC's decision to host its celebrations at one of the country's worst run municipalities angered the people and triggered the pandemonium that nearly collapsed the event, according to the Civil and Ratepayers Association of Enoch Mgijima (CRAEM).
The cash-strapped municipality is drowning in debt and owes Eskom R743 million.
For over a month, large parts of Komani and surrounding areas have been without power due to faulty connections attributed to ageing infrastructure.
The town turns 170 this year.
CRAEM's Dot van der Vyver told News24 how frustrations had boiled over due to the municipality’s inability to address the electricity crisis and poor workmanship among other issues.
Vyver said: “The community is very angry, the community is negative because, for example, Enoch sends a contractor to one area, they don’t even finish the job but jump to another area where there are also faults.”
She said lack of service delivery and the failure of municipal officials to answer phones left residents frustrated and angry.
“You call the control room and realise that those people are not properly trained. They lead you down a wrong path,” said Van der Vyver.
Asked what the ANC was doing to address the decaying infrastructure which has led to the public losing trust in the party's deployees, Ngcukayithobi said: “We have an assurance that the mayor is attending to the problems. We will monitor the situation very closely.”
He added that the party was very concerned about the state of infrastructure and electricity crisis in the area.
Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said problems contributing to the prolonged power cuts were:
- Old infrastructure which should have been replaced long ago;
- Theft and vandalism of infrastructure;
- Cable faults as a result of load shedding;
- Cable faults due to aged infrastructure and overloading; and
- Illegal connections which had led to system overload.
Kowa said: “The main issue raised is electricity outages that have been experienced since early December. Enoch Mgijima, especially Komani, has old infrastructure which is now prone to faults. The current council has set a plan of rectifying these challenges but these cannot be fixed overnight due to financial implications.”
He added that the municipality had approached the Development Bank of SA and the Office of the Premier to help secure funding to replace aged infrastructure and do proper maintenance.