Protesters led by the Unemployed People’s Movement (UPM) barricaded Dr Jacob Zuma Drive in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) during the early hours of Saturday, in anticipation of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s convoy.
The president was attending an ANC Freedom Day event at Miki Yili Stadium in Extension 5. In his address, Ramaphosa mentioned the water crisis facing Makhanda, but he did not go into specifics about the situation in the city.
Opposition parties and protesters outside were not addressed at the event, which focused on celebrating the ANC’s legacy.
“They are saying we are celebrating freedom – what freedom? What is freedom without basic needs? What is freedom without service delivery?” asked Luzuko Kelele, one of the UPM protesters.
The protests came after the dilapidated Miki Yili Stadium was renovated, trash collected, and the roads fixed for the presidential route leading to the stadium in the week before the event.
The UPM have raised numerous issues: an unreliable water supply, trash littered across the city, dangerous potholes, recurring sewer spills, and a severe lack of maintenance of municipal infrastructure.
Protestors were initially dispersed by police using rubber bullets and water cannons. They later returned with buckets of faeces, which they scattered across the road.
“These buckets tell you a story of how our people continue to use the bucket system,” said Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the UPM.
Simphiwo Scott, one of the protestors, said the buckets came from an area where the municipality had started building toilets, but the project was halted because it ran out of funds.
Attempts by GroundUp to get comment from the municipality were unsuccessful.
According to Kota, when the protestors approached the stadium, their billboards and posters were taken from them.
Kota said they “would be happy if the president was coming to affirm our position on the dissolution of council”, not for a political event.
In late February, the UPM filed a court application calling for the dissolution of the local council, arguing that the council had violated the Constitution, by failing to “ensure the provision of services to communities in a sustainable manner”.
The UPM is calling for the implementation of section 139 (1) of the constitution, which allows the province to place the municipality under administration.
Kota said the municipality has opposed the dissolution. The deadline for an answering affidavit was 24 April, but the municipality is requesting an extension, which Kota says the UPM will oppose.
Republished from GroundUp