Johannesburg - As smoke from burning tyres engulfed the streets of Alexandra on Wednesday, ANC and DA leaders kept shifting blame for the lack of service delivery to the deprived community.
“We cannot fix all the mess from 25 years ago in less than two-and-a-half years,” said City of Joburg’s MMC for public safety Michael Sun, after he was booed by angry protesters in Alexandra who were demanding to be addressed by mayor Herman Mashaba.
Sun was in the township to receive a memorandum following a #AlexTotalShutDown protest against illegal land use, poor service delivery and high levels of crime in the township.
When he tried to address the residents, he was shouted down and told to go away.
The #AlexTotalShutDown saw the community taking to the streets in the early hours of Wednesday, and the protests carried on throughout the day despite the presence of law enforcement.
Sandile Mavundla, the #AlexTotalShutdown leader, said they had been treated like outsiders in the township’s development.
“The City of Joburg has failed us. They don’t want to intervene on issues we raise with them. We have been complaining about the same thing for a long time. There are a lot of informal settlements around the area, there is crime, there is poor service delivery, but they (authorities) don’t intervene. We then thought the shutdown was the best tool for us to reach to them,” Mavundla said.
He said the protest was not an act of electioneering.
“We are from different political parties, therefore this has nothing to do with politics. We are here as one and united for the same goal,” Mavundla said.
Residents said Alex’s infrastructure was crumbling.
“There are potholes in the area. Our children cannot play in the streets because of the informal settlement built on the roads and sidewalks. There is no space anymore for recreational activities. The municipality has been constructing Rea Vaya stations, even now they are not finished. We always get late to work because of the traffic caused by the unfinished structures on the roads,” Solomon Ranaka said.
Buhle Sikhona said they had tried to remove immigrants from their houses, but the municipality wouldn’t intervene in this matter.
“We are not promoting any xeno- phobic acts, but we tried to remove foreign immigrants from their houses because we couldn’t understand how they can come here and get RDP houses while we live in shacks,” she said.
Residents said the government must give them the vacant land in the area to occupy.
Mashaba said he sympathised with the challenges experienced by the residents.
“For decades, the people of Alex have continually been let down by the previous administration of the ANC in the provision of housing and addressing migration into the community.”
Mashaba said that in 2001, R1.7billion was set aside for the Alexandra Renewal Project. The aim was to improve the physical, social and economic environment of Alex, thereby instilling a culture of civic pride.
He said the DA had frequently queried what happened to the money, which had been mismanaged by the “corrupt and failing ANC”.
But the ANC hit back, with the party’s Joburg spokesperson Jolidee Matongo saying: “Mashaba must prove the mismanagement of the R1.7bn.”
Matongo said money had been allocated to the Alex Renewal Project, but he did not have information on how much and what it was for. He added that the provincial government and the Department of Human Settlements could assist as the project was undertaken by them.
“In the two-and-a-half years of his governance, Mashaba has not taken responsibility for failures of his own government,” Matongo asserted. He said the service delivery complaints, such as rubbish collection and land invasions, had nothing to do with the previous ANC-led administration, but it was the community’s daily lived experiences.
“There were agreements with the property owners that he must honour, because if you come into office as government, you assume the role of government, and government does not stop functioning,” he said.
Alexandra police spokesperson Stephen Malatjie commended the protesters and their leaders for the “controlled” shutdown.
“As police we appreciate your effort in taking control of the situation and making sure that there are no injuries and no structures vandalised,” Malatjie said. The #AlexTotalShutDown protest was set to continue today.