Two days after deadly protests over soaring electricity prices erupted in Tembisa, Lebogang Maile, MEC for human settlements, urban planning and cooperative governance and traditional affairs said on Wednesday that people are correct to protest, to put more pressure on the government to address their concerns.
However, they must “not burn things”.
He was in the township to address the plight of residents and assess the damage after protesters torched municipal property and several vehicles.
“Put pressure, intensify, and those who do not want to service must run and never look back – but do not burn things. When you burn things it becomes something else.
“I admire activists who decide to raise their hands and say they are going to force the government to do what they are supposed to do.
“There is nothing wrong with what they have done and we shouldn’t frown about protests. The only thing we do not want is things to be burnt,” said Maile.
People in the area blamed the protest on the Ekurhuleni mayor, Tania Campbell, not showing up at a community meeting last Friday.
They claimed that had the mayor attended the meeting, they would not have embarked on the protest, which would most likely cost taxpayers millions.
Raphaahle Lekgau, a Tembisa resident, said there was no need for the mayor to attend the meeting last Friday, as the damage had already been done.
Lekgau said parents had already lost their children because of the violent protests and the mayor addressing their grievances would not change anything.
“What is she coming to do because the damage has already been done,” he said.
“The only thing they can do now is get the power stations working. It is not like everything will be fixed on Friday [when] she’ll be coming to this side.
“What will those who lost their loved ones say when they see her?”
He said the burning of power stations in the area would come at a huge cost to the community.
“The electricity issue is going to be a problem. On Monday I had to pay R50 for two litres of paraffin, meaning I will have to spend about R400 a month for paraffin.
“I am already paying R1,300 for rent and the solution now is speaking to the landlord about paying R800 for rent and the [rest] will go to paraffin.”
Another resident, Kgomotso Modibe, said the protest could have been avoided if the mayor had attended the meeting.
“If she came to listen to the grievances on that day this could have been avoided. We are where we are because she avoided coming. We need service delivery, the rates are too much.
“The mayor already has a memorandum about the grievances by the community, so there’s no need for her to come. Let her address the issues raised in the memorandum.”
Campbell said there were processes her team was investigating so that the could give proper feedback to the residents tomorrow.
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Campbell said she had asked certain departments to investigate issues for her, where the municipality could step in and give relief to residents.
Regarding her not attending the meeting last Friday, she said that appointment was a feedback meeting from the members of the mayoral committees to the community and this Friday would be “feedback from me as the mayor”.
“When public meetings get called, I cannot take over from the duties of the councillors, otherwise that makes the councillors irrelevant.”