MEC visits protest area

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Johannesburg - Gauteng Local Government and Housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi on Sunday moved to defuse tensions at Zandspruit informal settlement following rolling service delivery protests in the area.

Tensions have been high in the informal settlement near Honeydew since disgruntled community members blockaded the busy Beyers Naud, from Wednesday in a spate of protest that saw more than 20 people being arrested for public disorder.

They are protesting against the lack of housing and sanitation and what they describe as "corrupt activities" by local leaders.

Ahead of Mmemezi's arrival on Sunday police with their armoured vehicles were still monitoring the area after violence erupted. Residents are apparently also unhappy with their ward councillor Maureen Schneeman who they accuse of lacking interest in addressing their problems.

At a packed meeting addressed by the MEC, some even vowed not to vote in the upcoming Local Government Elections. "We are tired of promises we want answers, we are tired of living in filth my vote is my house," Petrus Madimetja, a resident who claimed had been on the housing waiting list since 1996. He told Mmemezi that his plead for a house had fallen on deaf ears since he arrived in Johannesburg to look for a job 17 years ago. "What must we do, the time of talking is over now ...we have said enough all we want now is action we can't continue to live like this," he said ending his speech with shouts of amandla, (power to the people).

Mmemezi, who was often interrupted by angry residents, said the City of Johannesburg and the Gauteng Local Government had both set aside a budget to eradicate informal settlements in the area but this would take time. "I am not going to stand and lie in front of you, I'm an MEC who tells the truth, we will not wake up tomorrow and say all informal settlement must go, it will take time but there is a budget to get rid of informal settlements over time," he said.

Residents also raised concerns about constant water leakages and uncollected refuse issues they claimed their councillor ignored.

Mmemezi said his department will from next week be addressing the immediate challenges of the community such as rubbish collection and the cleaning of toilets and other sanitary needs. There will also be community meetings where a new local leadership will be elected.

From Wednesday, he said, officials will be embarking on a cleaning campaign of the area while promising that issues of electricity and the alleged corruption would also be addressed. "We want to give you an undertaking that we have heard your problems and as a responsible government we will respond accordingly to all your issues," he added.