Pretoria - Pandemonium broke out at Tshwane House on Wednesday when informal traders affiliated to Tshwane Barekisi Forum stormed into municipal headquarters demanding payment for bursary scheme funds initiated by former mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa.
The informal traders entered the reception area and attempted to force their way into executive mayor Solly Msimanga’s office.
However, they were first stopped in their tracks, then manhandled, before being bundled out of the building by the Tshwane Metro Police Department’s VIP protection officers. The City police used pepper spray to disperse the crowd.
Fists flew as traders resisted being pushed on to the street, and a few of them sustained minor bruises.
The traders were accompanied by their children, who had come to join the demand for bursary funds to sponsor their education.
They claimed the DA-led administration had been refusing to release R740000 raised during Ramokgopa’s tenure as head of the City's former ANC-led government.
Some children claimed they had been booted out of institutions of higher learning for failing to pay their tuition fees.
Zandile Skhosana, 22, said she was disappointment that the Msimanga administration had not paid her tuition fees this year.
“We are being threatened that we will chased out of the campus.
“Very soon it will be exams, but we may not be allowed to write before we can settle our bills,” Skhosana said.
She said the students didn’t have issues with tuition fees during the ANC era. “This is affecting us, because we have dreams to become better people in future. This is wrong, just wrong. We were in there to ask for our funds, but we were attacked for no reason,” she said.
Barekisi leader Mary Ngema said traders had entered the municipal building peacefully, but were shocked to be attacked by metro police.
“We wanted them to address the students who had been suspecting that we as the leadership and parents had misused their bursary funds. They threw us out; they beat us up and used pepper spray to disperse us,” Ngema said.
The traders would embark on a huge march, she said. “We are going to make Tshwane ungovernable. The money is there and it is our money; it is not theirs. They must pay for the children because it is already October. The kids have been chased away from the schools,” Ngema said.
She said the City confirmed that it had R740 000 raised for the bursary scheme which was supposed to pay tuition fees of stranded students so they could go back to school.
Two months ago, the informal traders stormed into offices of the City’s Department of Economic Development in Thabo Sehume Street and held hostage officials for the same reason.
They demanded to know what happened to funds raised for the bursary scheme under the previous ANC administration. During the hostage drama, they accused some directors of misappropriating the money.
Msimanga’s spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said the mayor had committed to matching every rand raised by the traders up to R1 million.
He said Msimanga also encouraged informal traders to continue knocking on relevant doors to raise funds for their children’s future.
Mgobozi said the bursary fund was initiated by the previous administration to address informal traders’ concerns of lack of educational funding for their children, which led to unending generational poverty.
“At the beginning of the 2016 academic year, there were not enough funds to cover for the registration of all students and the then executive mayor utilised the mayoral fund to the tune of R3.2m to pay the tuition fees of all applicants.
“This demonstrates that the bursary fund had totally failed to live up to its expectations, and the expectations created had to be funded through the City funds, which was never part of the plan,” he said.
Mgobozi said Msimanga and members of his executive, including top city officials, met to resolve traders' issues.
He said the total amount raised for the bursary fund since its launch came to R740 000.
This was sitting in an bank account, under the control of the City’s finance department.
“The fund must, as a matter of principle, be integrated into a broader City of Tshwane bursary scheme, run by the department of corporate and shared services. This will enable this responsibility to be handled by people with necessary knowledge and expertise in this regard,” Mgobozi said.
The fund framework must be reworked, in consultation with the informal traders, to set out a management framework which would deal with the current issues with the fund, he said.
“The corporate and shared services department will assist in resolving the situation of the current students who have submitted requests to be funded through this bursary fund,” Mgobozi said.