Bekkersdal residents woke up as early as 2am to block the R28 to express their anger towards the local government regarding the lack of service delivery. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)
Angry Bekkersdal residents have threatened to boycott next month’s elections if their demands were not met.

On Wednesday, residents of the township - which has a population of over 15000 -  blocked off the R28 towards Westonaria from as early as 2am.

The protest was organised over electrification of Spooktown and X Section - informal settlements in the area - but residents said that was not the only issue as there were constant sewage floods and inadequate roads.

“It is not only about electrification. The area as a whole is a disaster zone. How are we supposed to raise good role models in this s**thole? They are now stopping us from marching to the councillor’s office. We have been promised electricity since 2017 although our settlement (Spooktown) was established in 2003. The budget has been allocated. It is clear that someone is looting and we are not going to vote until they cater to our needs,” said a resident.

Winnie Mokwena, who was born in the area, calls it a “pigsty”.

“There are constantly new sections of the township mushrooming, and in those new settlements they always install electricity. The mayor tells us stories. We want electricity and RDP houses. They are always giving Soweto people the houses, so it is clear there is some form of corruption happening here. We are sure the houses are being sold. Today we are marching to the municipality so they can give us answers,” she said.

Driving through the township, one can see the overcrowded Spooktown, with its crammed shacks that can only be accessed through a gravel road, which yesterday was dry mud because of the recent rains. Illegal electricity connections that supply the shacks with power dangled on street poles.

The stench of burning plastic and sewage was present in the air while onlookers glazed at street corners, drinking alcohol.

Police were stationed at the supermarket in the area to avoid any theft. However, five young men managed to gain access to the construction company and stole office chairs.

One person was arrested.

A resident and a police officer embroiled in an altercation. Simphiwe Mbokazi African News Agency (ANA)

During the protest, police dispersed the crowd by firing rubber bullets and driving around in a Nyala vehicle.

The protest continued into the afternoon, and Gauteng police spokesperson Captain Kay Makhubele said a man was arrested for theft and damage to the construction company.

“The community is now looting the shops. We are still on standby, firing rubber bullets at the residents who are protesting,” he said.

Westonaria Municipality was contacted for comment but its phone rang unanswered.

Environmental Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane - then Gauteng premier - told protesting Bekkersdal residents in 2013 that the ANC did not need their “dirty votes” ahead of the 2014 general elections.