Cape Town - The tension between some Swellendam residents and the town’s municipality which led to its municipal offices going up in flames, continued to simmer late last night.
Residents of Railton and Matjoks took to the streets on Wednesday and torched the municipal offices. The cost of damage is estimated to be around R25 million.
Swellendam executive mayor Francois du Rand said the main cause of the violent protest was that the residents did not want to apply for the indigent subsidy which would give them free electricity units.
“The communities wanted to meet with me and we arranged a meeting, and when I arrived at the Thusong Centre, the residents didn’t pitch.
“The second meeting was set up for August 20 but it was moved to Tuesday, where a decision was taken to protest. We can improve on our communication with them about policies. We have, however, trusted that the councillors would relay the message from council.”
Councillor Julian Matthysen said the people acted out of frustration.
“We as ANC councillors warned the leading party for years to stop with the high tariffs being enforced. This came before this year’s budget, where we warned the DA that people can’t afford electricity and water.
“The community must pay R12.50 to fix potholes and they don’t even have cars.”
Du Rand confirmed that residents have to pay a levy because the budget for infrastructure is meagre.
Yesterday, the residents expected positive feedback from their leaders about a meeting that was supposed to happen but didn’t take place.
Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell said they were going to do a study in the province on the electricity tariffs.
“It’s not the municipality’s function. National energy regulator (Nersa) has allowed Eskom an 18.5% increase in electricity, but they only allow the municipality an increase in tariffs.
“We will look into that and we will prove to the people that municipalities are reasonable with their tariffs in the province, and we will work with all 30 municipalities and we will do that study within the next month.”
Police oversight and Community Safety MEC Reagen Allen said they want to restore peace in Swellendam.
“We want to ensure that our community is ultimately safe. What we have seen in the last two days is totally unacceptable. We are fully aware that when concerns are emanating from the communities, there are processes to handle those concerns.
“We have seen 102 arrests, out of that 18 were children, and we have activated the Social Development Department.”
Allen said the area’s heavy police presence would remain for now while the issues were still being ironed out.