Scratching under the surface

REVELATIONS of the possible motivations of the young men leading the New Rest housing protests came to light this week thanks to municipal sources who confide in a local EFF activist.

If true, they cast another light on the spate of protests which have escalated in violence until the worst one yesterday, in which shots were fired at police and police responded by shooting rubber bullets. Two policemen were injured by stones and debris being thrown at them.

According to documents leaked to the EFF activist, who shared them with TotT, the main ringleader of the protests, Sibusiso Zweni, works for the Ndlambe fire department. This is already ironic as there is a fireman helping to start fires – the burning barricades across the R67 – which his colleagues have to put out.

Furthermore, we learned Zweni was suspended after allegedly being involved in a theft case at the fire station.

Fire chief Mervyn Sauls stated in a letter that the other staff at the fire station had lost trust in Zweni and another colleague following their alleged misconduct and “do not want them at the fire station”.

Surely there is a code of conduct that is being broken when a municipal employee is acting against the interests of the municipality by disrupting public access and creating a disturbance which brings the municipality into disrepute

But incredibly Zweni was later reinstated, apparently in a probationary position. Word has now come out that procedures were not correctly followed in the disciplinary process. Also, the municipality chose not to open a case with the SAPS.

The timing of the housing protests shortly thereafter was uncanny.

EFF activist Xolisa Runeli, who has also been present at the protests, accused Zweni of positioning himself as a leader in the protests as leverage against the municipality to be permanently employed again.

If this is true, and vulnerable, frustrated people have been taken advantage of for the personal vendetta and ambitions of one man, it is appalling. It is also appalling if the municipality is allowing itself to be held ransom by one of its own employees.

Aside from the botched disciplinary hearing over the alleged theft, surely there is a code of conduct that is being broken when a municipal employee is acting against the interests of the municipality by disrupting public access and creating a disturbance which brings the municipality into disrepute.

The consequences of this go far beyond the demand for land and housing. As we see in our page 2 story, business and tourism is also being negatively affected, which could affect the local economy in the long term.

Runeli has now distanced himself from the actions of Zweli and two other young men leading the protests.

With so much at stake, we hope the entire situation is resolved soon.

– Jon Houzet

 

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