074 A couch is set alight on the streets of Zamdela in Sasolburg as residents protest over proposed demacations. 220113. Picture: Bongiwe Mchunu

Sasolburg - Residents of the Metsimaholo municipality in Free State met the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) on Wednesday, objecting to its proposed merger with Ngwathe municipality.

After the meeting, MDB chairman Landiwe Mahlangu held a joint press briefing with Lucky Malebo, chairman of the Metsimaholo Concerned Residents in Pretoria.

The deliberations followed violent protests which engulfed Sasolburg's Zamdela township against the proposed merger.

Mahlangu said the residents expressed their reasons for opposing the merger.

“We decided to give audience to the Metsimaholo residents. We were satisfied that this engagement had to take place in this format because substantive points were raised,” he said.

Mahlangu said the MDB would consider the pros and cons given on the proposed merger and a decision would be made later this year.

“We haven't changed our processes. We will do our investigation; we may hold 1/8a 3/8 public meeting. In the end, we will then make a decision,” he said.

Mahlangu said the processes around the proposed merger were instituted by the Free State government.

“Before the board can take a decision on reconsidering any municipalities, there are a number of factors to be considered. We are not desperate to amalgamate municipalities at the cost of the welfare of the residents,” he said.

“The reasons given (for the proposed merger) were along the lines that merged municipalities were going to function much better. I can confirm it (the proposal) was done by the province and the district,” said Mahlangu.

The residents were adamant the merger would never proceed. Malebo said the community was not consulted as stipulated in the law, at the onset of the proposal.

“Before the submission (to merge the municipalities) we were supposed to be consulted, by law. That first step was violated and the whole process falls apart,” he said.

“At the end, it doesn't matter whether the board says we merge or we don't. We, as the residents, say we don't merge. We are saying this matter will not happen, no ways,” said Malebo.

He said Co-operative Governance Minister Richard Baloyi had told the community through a community radio station that the merger had been stopped.

“I asked him what he meant by stopping the process. He (Baloyi) said the whole thing (the merger) is now non-existent, in other words, if we take the minister's words, we are talking about the merger that is not there,” he said.

“Our assessment is that he said a lot of words that mean nothing. We decided we have to engage the Demarcation Board, which is why we are sitting here today. He was not stopping the process,” said Malebo.

He said the Zamdela residents were never convinced by the minister's statements, they were angered instead.

“When he made his statement at the local station, people were never given the opportunity to phone in. When he left the station had to play music for more than one-and-a-half-hours because of the swear words and curses coming from the residents,” said Malebo.

“In our view, the minister did not bring calm to the community. People could see through what he was saying, that these were empty words,” he said.

Efforts to get comment from Baloyi were unsuccessful.

Violent protests broke out two weeks ago in Sasolburg's Zamdela township against the proposed merger.

Four people were killed, and several others, including two police officers, were injured. More than 200 people were arrested, and there was substantial damage to property. - Sapa