To quell the destruction of public property during violent community protests, Gauteng’s department of infrastructure and development yesterday launched the I Care We Care campaign in Bekkersdal, south of Randfontein.
According to MEC Jacob Mamabolo, the campaign aimed to educate the public about the importance of preserving public buildings such as schools and clinics. But some residents yesterday told The Citizen the campaign was another way of trying to get people to vote for the ANC.
“This campaign is just all about empty words,” said a 62-year-old resident who did not want to be named.
“These ANC politicians are just coming here to campaign ahead of the local government elections.”
He said nothing had been done to improve the lives of residents in the area since the dawn of democracy in 1994. One Bekkersdal community leader, Fola Mithani, yelled that “Mamabolo is just here to lie” during a media briefing.
Mithani accused the provincial government of provoking residents by not telling them how it would improve their living conditions. Bekkersdal made headlines in 2013 during violent protests that resulted in the destruction of public property.
Irate residents were demanding that West Rand Local Municipality mayor Nonkoliso Tundzi step down after they accused her of nepotism and corruption.
Condemning incidents of public infrastructure destruction, Mamabolo said “a lot of education is needed so our people understand the implications of their actions”.
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“Public education is very important and, through the I Care We Care campaign, we intend to collect 1 million signatures from residents who pledge to support this initiative,” Mamabolo said.
“I am confident people will respond positively to this campaign because the destruction of public property in our communities is a serious problem. A lot of people get inconvenienced.”
When asked what government had learnt following the 2013 unrest in Bekkersdal, Mamabolo said that “when people raise an issue, government must always be ready to go and listen and talk to the people”.
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Johannesburg’s Chamber of Commerce chair Ernest Mahlaule was in support of the campaign. He said potential foreign investors were concerned about South Africa’s culture of burning buildings in anger.
“You might be burning buildings in an attempt to get attention from government,” Mahlaule said. “But what you don’t realise is that you are creating an environment where you are scaring investors from making our environment even better.”
Construction work had started in the area next to a local taxi rank, but Mithani said residents were neither informed nor consulted about the project. Mamabolo and Gauteng Premier David Makhura had frequently visited the area since the 2013 unrest.
Yesterday’s campaign launch comes at a time when parts of the country have been gripped by violent protests. In a recent incident, a Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transit system bus was torched in Meadowlands, Soweto, on Tuesday night in a protest over power outages.