After 15-year housing delay protesters shut Stutt down

Stutterheim yesterday came to a standstill as protesters closed parts of the incoming road to demand long-promised houses.

 

AFTERMATH: A police officer seen trying to clear the debris on the road that leads into Stutterheim following the protests in the Amahlathi municipality Picture: MICHAEL PINYANA

One group, from nearby Kei Road township, blockaded the road between Kei Road and Komga saying they had been promised houses by the Eastern Cape’s first premier, Raymond Mhlaba.

The community, which comprises over 600 households, has only 15 RDP houses, all built during Mhlaba’s time.

Community activist Albert Witbooi led about 200 young people on a protest that started at 6am yesterday.

They blockaded the road, forcing motorists to find alternative routes.

The road was eventually cleared between 9am and 10am.

The cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) department quickly deployed officials to address the protesters.

Cogta’s Langa Madyibi later promised to come back within 14 days with a full team to listen to their grievances.

In their petition, accepted by Madyibi, high on the list were the issues of housing, road construction and the high level of unemployment in the area.

Witbooi said: “Every year we get a new official from the municipality coming here to assure us that a service provider has been appointed and that construction will start soon. But we never see any construction.”

He said the last excuse that was given to them was that their township did not have suitable sewerage capacity to accommodate the number of houses that are meant to be built there.

The community members also claim that their housing beneficiary list has been manipulated, as it initially showed that there were 1000 beneficiaries in waiting whereas it now sits at only 600.

During a Daily Dispatch visit there yesterday, a second protesting group was seen burning tyres at the entrance of the small town.

Amahlathi municipal manager Balisa Socikwa yesterday said the municipality understood the plight of the residents at Kei Road.

“It has been more than 15 years since these residents were promised houses. The municipality has been facilitating the process but most of the functions lie with the human settlements and Amathole district municipality,” said Socikwa.

In a second unrelated protest municipal officials demanded that 37 suspended colleagues be reinstated.

On that issue Socikwa said: “We suspended 37 employees who were participating in illegal strikes. We are comfortable because we followed all bargaining processes.

“We warned our employees, gave them legal notices and sent out an interdict, but all that did not stop them from destroying the town.

“It had to stop in one way or another. We are now busy with the disciplinary process of those employees.”

Simthandile Ford – DispatchLIVE

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