Durban - President Cyril Ramaphosa is not coming to Chatsworth on Friday, despite his promise after his no-show last week.
Hundreds of irate residents, as well as those from surrounding communities, had sat patiently for almost two hours at the Nelson Mandela Community Youth Centre to hear the president last Friday, only to be told he was still in a meeting in Empangeni, about two hours’ drive away.
The residents left disheartened after being told Ramaphosa would indeed address them, and listen to their various concerns on July 13.
However, the president’s latest itinerary, released by his office, shows he will not even be in the country this week.
Ramaphosa left for Nigeria yesterday, and tomorrow he is expected to undertake a state visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. On Friday, he is scheduled to be in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
Presidency spokesperson Khusela Diko told POST that last week’s meeting was an ANC programme, and she could not comment on it.
“I don’t know about the ANC’s programme, but I can confirm that the president will be in the UAE on Friday.”
Senior ANC KZN leader Ravi Pillay confirmed to POST that the provincial leadership had requested that the president change the date to a Saturday or Sunday, “as this will be more convenient for the community”.
“His office has agreed to this. We are now planning for the week end of August 10/11.
“An announcement will be made closer to that time about the final date, time and venue,” said Pillay.
Chatsworth was abuzz last Friday as cars lined Joyhurst Street.
Some of the invited guests included Ela Gandhi, Swaminathan Gounden, tycoon Vivian Reddy, Logie Naidoo and Health MEC Sibongiseni Dhlomo.
By 6pm, the scheduled start time, there was excitement in the air for the president’s first visit to the large township.
While ministers and city officials made their way to the front of the venue, ANC members in party regalia sang Struggle songs and danced, joined by some residents.
As the minutes ticked by, people were getting tired of the music and wondering why they had been left in the lurch.
Ninety minutes later, Pillay and ANC NEC member Edna Molewa announced that President Ramaphosa had just left the meeting at Empangeni, but had another urgent meeting to attend before going to Chatsworth.
“He is not absconding, rather he is just running late,” Molewa tried to placate the edgy crowd.
“This doesn’t usually happen with our president, it’s a rare case.”
Residents decided it would be best to reschedule the meeting rather than wait until midnight.
Florence Waljie, 75, from Wentworth, said the president should have tried to keep his commitment.
“I came with my friends. We are all pensioners. We are disappointed, but at least they are giving us another date to return. To invite old people at night in this cold and send them away, it’s not nice.”
Chatsworth resident Brandon Jacob said he had been looking forward to engaging with the president about jobs, high fuel prices and the cost of living.
Simphiwe Mjezo, from Burlington, said he wanted to urge Ramaphosa help build unity among the people of Chatsworth.
“I feel disappointed about the adjournment; we were all waiting for him to address our questions and create some sort of social cohesion here.”
MF councillor Jonathan Annipan agreed with Mjezo. “This community in Chatsworth has been angry.
“They are looking for some answers and a way to put an end to crime and racism.
“The situation between Bottlebrush informal settlement and the community is volatile; if he does not show up on Friday, there will be bloodshed.
“But I believe he will be there after seeing a video of his apology going around,” he said.