ANGRY when their councillor was a no-show at a scheduled community meeting, Ward 7 residents blocked Thambo Street with stones, wood and bottles, and starting small fires in the street on Tuesday.
The residents had gathered in Thambo Street, Ndlovini at 10am, when the meeting with Ward 7 councillor Mbuyiseli Yali was scheduled to take place. However, Yali did not show up as planned. Instead, only police officials were present at the scene who were then sent to call Yali.
According to an observer of the protest who did not want to be named, when police returned they said Yali was in a meeting which was the reason he had not shown up.
Still angry, the residents headed towards the councillor’s office at the Ingubo centre. But Yali was nowhere to be found at his office and protestors made their presence felt by singing.
The owner of the building intervened by phoning the ward councillor to come and address the fuming residents. Yali eventually showed up accompanied by two municipal officials and Ward 6 councillor Mkhulisi Raco.
The demonstrators did not waste time assailing him with their grievances, one person after the other, with some talking at the same time.
Council speaker Vivian Maphaphu had to intervene and chair the discussion, even though her intervention led to a heated exchanged of words.
“Mama, are you going to allow Mr Yali to answer our questions?” asked a man who identified himself as Sonwabile. He said Maphaphu did not know their problems and therefore did not believe that her intervention was helpful.
Maphaphu responded she and the fellow official present were dealing with public participation at the municipality, which the protest was part of. Angry residents began expressing their grievances to Maphaphu, while her colleague took notes.
Unemployment appeared to be the dominant issue among those who spoke. Demonstrators directly accused the ward councillor of favouring people from his surrounding area for municipal jobs.
“Mr Yali, where does Ward 7 start and end?” asked Ntomboxolo Valela. She claimed that people from her area, including herself, could not find work, whereas Ingubo residents from the councillor’s area are the lucky ones to be employed.
Some residents also complained about a lack of lights and their streets being inaccessible to cars.
Sipho Faku from Mapheru Street appealed to the councillor to do something about crime in his area. He further claimed that councillor knew about it but he deliberately turned a blind eye to it.
Responding to the complaints, Maphaphu said the municipality is governed by an administration and politicians (councillors). She said politicians do not deal with employment. The demonstrators seemed to be provoked by her statement, saying that the ward councillor had used job promises in the election campaign, knowing that he had no say on employment.
Maphaphu said the issues had been noted and would be discussed by municipal officials, after which the municipality would send relevant officials with answers.