Pretoria - Accusations and counter-accusations of no service delivery and politicking were exchanged between the DA-led Tshwane Metro and the opposition the African National Congress (ANC) on Monday, after a high-mast street light killed five children.
"Since the DA took over [Tshwane], there is this problem around maintenance of services particularly in the townships. There is clear indication of lack of service delivery. The Mayor [Solly Msimanga] came here but you can understand the community is very angry. From our side, we are with the families and we are going to assist the families," said ANC Tshwane deputy chairperson Mapiti Matsena at the scene where four of the children were crushed in Soshanguve, north of Pretoria.
"The families are very angry with the mayor, but they are saying let us concentrate on burying the children. The other issues they will deal with after the funeral."
Matsena said the Democratic Alliance (DA) administration was "politicising service delivery", and cutting financial budgets earmarked for townships.
Earlier on Monday, Msimanga had to be escorted out of Soshanguve after he received a hostile reception by community members when he intended to visit some of the families who lost children in the weekend tragedy.
Seven children were playing at the large pile of the Apollo light, just outside the Bopape home on Saturday. The heavy metal ring which holds the highly hoisted street lights, fell on them, crushing four children to death on the spot.
Two children were rushed to hospital, and one passed away at the George Mukhari Hospital. One child was not hurt. Two of the children who died were cousins aged two and six from the Bopape family.
Msimanga's acting spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said when the mayor and his delegation arrived at Block X Community Hall, in Soshanguve, the municipal team was met by members from the local business forum, who indicated their “discomfort” with Msimanga’s presence.
“In light of the tragic events that recently unfolded and cognisant of the raw emotions, the Executive Mayor decided not to engage with the mob, but rather make his way to the first of the distraught families,” said Mashigo.
“Upon arrival at the house of one of the families, to express condolences to parents who had just lost a child, the mayor was again accosted by the mob which was clearly being used to push a political agenda at a time when politics was the furthest thing from the mayor’s mind. It is deeply regrettable that, not for the first time, people who are considered community leaders chose to put their own narrow political interest before the genuine feelings of the families.”
Msimanga’s office blamed the chaos on the opposition in Tshwane, the ANC.
“It is now undeniably clear that the ANC in Tshwane has given up all pretence of caring about the people and is now using people’s pain to drive a political agenda. This type of behaviour is condemned in the strongest terms,” said Mashigo.
“The Mayor again would like to extend his condolences to the bereaved families and say to them that the Msimanga administration in the City of Tshwane mourns with them.”
Some residents complained that they had been shot at with rubber bullets, by members of the Tshwane Metro Police Department who were protecting Msimanga. Some of the residents were holding used shells of rubber bullets apparently fired by the metro police.