Chaos in town as residents protest

Cobus Coetzee

ANGRY Swellendam residents threw chairs at Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi and stoned his motorcade when a meeting was derailed yesterday.

Chaos again erupted in Swellendam and Railton when residents took to the streets, burnt tyres, blockaded the N2 and tried to set the mayor’s office alight.

“Some elements in this community threw chairs at us and are intolerant to others in the community,” Baloyi told the Cape Times.

“This is clearly not on. The police had to fire teargas and rubber bullets at them.”

He was due to meet the community last week but the meeting was cancelled several times.

Baloyi and Local Government MEC Anton Bredell intervened in the municipality after violent protests erupted in Swellendam last month.

Foreign-owned businesses were looted and national roads were blocked, while businesses were closed for days.

Some residents are unhappy with conflict between DA and ANC councillors, poor service delivery and the appointment of some municipal officials including municipal manager Nico Nel.

Tempers flared on November 14 after the Western Cape High Court gave the council back to the DA after the ANC tried to take control with the help of then ACDP councillor Julian Matthysen, who switched allegiance from a ruling alliance with the DA to the ANC.

“I will not leave this town until it is sorted out. Otherwise it will get even worse,” said Baloyi.

He has assigned two senior managers from Pretoria to assist with the running of the municipality, while Bredell too has sent two officials to the historic town.

Yesterday Baloyi tried to bargain with angry residents before the meeting collapsed.

“I offered to place the municipal manager (Nico Nel) on special leave for us to move forward,” he said.

Baloyi said all the nine councillors in Swellendam were in agreement, along with the management of the municipality, to work together to stabilise the municipality.

“It was just the two unions Samwu and Imatu that didn’t want to agree to it. They have real grievances that must be addressed,” he said.

Baloyi said he would work until the early hours of the morning to find a solution.

Swellendam mayor Nicholas Myburgh said he and other councillors would meet Baloyi in Cape Town today.

“I don’t know what we must do to bring a solution to the matter, but what we must do is restore the law in the town.

“The unrest comes from an organised group that uses violence. It was all planned even before the meeting started,” said Myburgh.

He said the mayor’s office had been saved from being burnt down.

“Luckily we could end it before it got out of hand,” he said.

Resident David Schlapobersk, who attended the meeting, said that just before the meeting was disrupted young people had come into the hall holding up posters that stated: “Malema kom red Swellendam” (Malema come save Swellendam).

Baloyi said some community members had even threatened to hold him hostage.

“I said they can hold me hostage but then we must sit down and talk,” he said.


sign up