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Pretoria - “Spin and spew.” This is what a senior City of Tshwane spokesman said he would do in compiling a response to questions from the Pretoria News about AfriForum’s concerns over an illegal squatter settlement in Monument Park.
On August 12 the Pretoria News e-mailed a series of questions to Blessing Manale, executive head of public affairs and media relations and spokesman for the metro council, after AfriForum raised concerns about the squatters.
Manale forwarded the questions internally to some of his colleagues with a note: “Colleagues, see below. Please send me any general report. I will spin and spew at Afriforum in one paragraph.”
The questions related to a demand by AfriForum that the council do something immediately to remove up to 300 people who had made their home on a disused private property on Skilpad Street near the R21 highway.
AfriForum said they had received complaints from residents in the area about the squatters who they said had led to an increase in crime and a decline in property values.
In seeking response to the Pretoria News’ questions, Manale requested information and crime statistics from the Gauteng Department of Human Settlements and Co-operative Governance, among others.
In his official response to the Pretoria News on August 13, he wrote: “We will not be engaging with AfriForum on the matter as they have not tabled any alternative constructive suggestions on the issue.
“We believe that, as a city, we are doing our best within the limitations of our resources and competing service delivery priorities to address the housing needs and challenges of our residents in programmatic manner.”
AfriForum is outraged at what it sees as the council’s dismissive attitude towards the informal settlement, as well as to themselves as revealed in Manale’s comment to other council officials.
“Two weeks ago AfriForum asked for an appointment with the municipal manager to obtain feedback on the squatters in Monument Park and to give council the opportunity to explain why the situation was not handled in terms of the law,” said Ian Cameron of AfriForum.
“We received the e-mail from Manale instead, we assume in error, which made it abundantly clear that (the) metro does not serve the interests of the community in any way whatsoever.”
Cameron said the e-mail had been leaked to their media relations officer on Monday by a council employee, but he could not confirm who it was.
Manale said the e-mail was meant for internal correspondence only, and he did not know how it had reached the inbox of AfriForum or the Pretoria News on Monday this week.
He said the council would not be investigating how the e-mail got out, nor would he be apologising to AfriForum.
“They should not be in possession of confidential internal correspondence,” Manale said.
At the previous monthly council meeting a motion by ward councillor Bronwynn Engelbrecht to have the informal settlement removed was rejected by the speaker of council, Morakane Mosupyoe-Letsholo.
Residents of Monument Park have decided to take legal action against the city to force the removal of the squatters.
Manale, in his response to Pretoria News’s questions, confirmed that the informal settlement is illegal.
He said the metro police have attempted to remove the occupants from the property but without success.
Pretoria News Weekend