At least 5,000 residents of Merafong in the West Rand, Gauteng, embarked on a shutdown on Wednesday to protest ongoing water and electricity issues in the area.
The executive mayor, Maphefo Mogale Letsie, is at the centre of their grievances, having allegedly invested in VBS Mutual Bank. The community is calling for her to step down.
The deputy secretary of the South African National Civics Organisation, Sipho Dlamini, told News24 protests have been ongoing since 2011.
“This was a service delivery protest because we don’t have electricity for a month now and there hasn’t been a drop of water in our taps for almost nine months.
“We are also raising the issue of the executive mayor investing illegally in VBS Bank,” Dlamini explained.
He said this money could have instead been used to solve service delivery problems in the area.
According to Dlamini, the ANC’s provincial leadership have “honoured the call to come and listen to the people of Merafong”.
Residents handed over a memorandum to the leadership who is planning a sitting on February 9 and a response by February 10.
According to Dlamini, the provincial leadership also conceded it was wrong for Letsie to invest in VBS.
“We started this in 2011, asking her to step down because since she got into that office service delivery has declined.
“Out of the blue today after the protests, the electricity has come back on as well as the water,” Dlamini said.
However, residents are still calling for Letsie’s head.
“Now, we are allowing the provincial leadership of the ANC to decide the future of the executive mayor, we are giving them the benefit of the doubt until they sit on Sunday.
“After that, if they don’t remove her, we are going to embark on a total shutdown, the community will make this area of the West Rand ungovernable,” Dlamini said.
But the Merafong City Local Municipality maintained the matter of the executive mayor’s investment in VBS Bank had been investigated and the recommendation resulting from this have been implemented.
“The fact remains that there are communities in Merafong that are not paying for the services that are consumed by them. This is one of the main drivers of the financial difficulties and cash flow problems experienced by the municipality.
“Communities need to enable the municipality to improve on service delivery, and that means that services must be paid for,” the municipality said in a statement shortly after the protests.
It slammed the protests and said the community were depriving themselves of basic needs.
“The community action follows a period of intense vandalism and theft of municipal infrastructure in Khutsong.”
Once repairs were done, infrastructure was again vandalised, the municipality said, adding “it was clear that the purpose of the vandalism was to cause damage, not theft of cables or copper parts”.
“This again had the community without electricity, while the municipality had to spend scarce resources to effect repairs.
“It is unfortunate that the political arena is being extended to disrupt the lives of community members through actions that are not connected to the real issues in the municipality,” it said.
For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.