Pretoria - Political influence, impatience and miscommunication were behind the mass protest over electricity and other basic amenities that erupted at Stoffel Park in Mamelodi East on Thursday.
Zonal ANC secretary Silas Moselakgomo said the protest was unfortunate as there was already a development plan for the informal settlement. This had been communicated thoroughly to the residents.
The unrest was fuelled by attempts to score cheap political points, Moselakgomo said, gesturing towards community leaders wearing the apparel of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
“They want to appear to be heroes when the development of the area is completed.
“They want to appear as if they are the ones who made the developments happen.
“The plan to formalise informal settlements, including Stoffel Park, and provide them with basic services and amenities was outlined by the executive mayor in his budget speech and State of the City address.”
Solomon Mahlangu Drive and Tsamaya Road were barricaded with rocks, rubbish and tree branches as the residents ran amok and took their fight to the streets.
Taxis, buses and general traffic could not enter the area for most of Thursday morning.
Most workers could also not leave the township. Even the region’s shopping mall was closed for business as traders feared possible vandalism and looting.
Those who joined the protest said they heeded a call by their community leaders to wake up when a bell was rung just after 1am.
They converged on the streets and started closing off roads with the intention to keep people from leaving the area to go to work.
By dawn, all the main access routes to Mamelodi East had been closed off.
There was a large police contingent in the area, which resembled a war zone by the time the stand-off was defused following intervention by chief whip of the city council Jabu Mabona and mayoral committee member for infrastructure development Jacob Masango.
Community leader Edward Sejeso said residents have grown tired of waiting for electricity and development since 2011.
Sejeso said during that time, preference with regards to electricity connection was given to people who had just been relocated to Stoffel Park from other informal settlements, at the expense of long-time residents.
Mayoral spokesman Blessing Manale said the protest started because residents saw the development on a new area on a layout map.
The development that angered them includes the communal stand water pipes, grading of roads and electrification, he said.
“Our plan is to develop the entire area, including rearranging the residents in line with the layout map.
“As soon as we allocate permanent stands, the service departments will follow with the services.
“We remain committed that communication and co-operation with the residents is paramount to achieve this plan.
“We plead with the community not to allow anyone to invade the land, no rentals or building of permanent structures. This will make our lives easier in formalising this settlement.”
A contractor for electricity had already been appointed. “It is our intention to accommodate all beneficiaries, but some of the people are along the Magaliesberg mountain which is regulated by the National Environmental Management Act. Residents along this green belt will be prioritised during relocation to other permanent serviced stands.”