Large crowds of several hundred people were burning branches and tyres at four different sites on the main- and only access road between Humansdorp and Cape St Francis in a service delivery protest today.
Since 07:00 on Saturday morning the four fires were simultaneously started over a five kilometre stretch of road. The first two were located between the main entrance of St Francis Bay and the Sand River Bridge, the third at Tarragona Road, the main entrance to Sea Vista (township) and the fourth fire was across the road toward Cape St Francis at the informal settlement – the back end of Sea Vista.
I called on Bobby Stevenson, DA caucus leader in Bhisho for political intervention by the provincial head of police, the MEC for Human Settlements and the Premier.
A Public Order Police Services (POPS) squad was sent from Port Elizabeth under the leadership of Maj. Vinqi. Brig. Jantjies, the local cluster commander was in full control of the situation and supportive of the operations on the ground. Capt. Kiwiets, St Francis Station Commander, was also on duty with all her personnel.
The DA will:
- Monitor this very volatile situation at Sea Vista with SAPS over the weekend;
- Ensure that all the fires will be put out and law and order is maintained;
- Call and urgent meeting with Brig Jantjies, Municipal Manager Sydney Fadi and the full council to address the lack of service delivery in Kouga; and
- Meet with the full Bhisho Legislature team who will be in Jeffreys Bay on Monday to follow up on promises made in October during the “Taking Legislature to the People”-event and the progress made.
Each fire was manned and stoked by an angry group of protesters and their issues were against:
- Kouga Municipality for poor service delivery, lack of access to water, toilets and electricity;
- Kouga Municipality who has not responded to the letter written to the Municipal Manager and ANC mayor Booi Koerat by the DA ward councillor Ben Rheeder after the previous march at the beginning of May, when the first protest action took place;
- The Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements for not providing houses as promised in October last year during the Legislature’s visit to the area, as well as the delay in resolving the lack of drainage at new 95 houses constantly flooded;
- The Eastern Cape Department of Education for the poor progress in building the new school in Sea Vista; and
- The Eastern Cape Department of Roads and Public Works who handle the scholar transport programme to transport learners from Sea Vista to Humansdorp for the shortage of transport and poor quality of the vehicles of some of the contractors.
The Portfolio Committee of Education in the Legislature and officials planned to hold a workshop today in Cape St Francis. MEC Mandla Makupula, who arrived on the scene at the first fire, managed to appease the crowds and after serious negotiations a very strong police presence could convince the crowds to move to the community hall in Sea Vista for further communication with the Bhisho leadership.
This happened because of a lack of service delivery by the ANC-ruled and cash strapped Kouga Municipality and a situation where the Provincial Legislature had not acted fast in their promises to the various communities since October last year.
After the first protest action councillor Rheeder had written to the municipal manager and the mayor without any response and he met with the housing and infrastructure departments of Kouga to address the issues raised by the community.
The DA has full understanding of the severe conditions and the suffering of the people in Sea Vista and we strongly condemn the fact that our people are ignored in our communities. We believe that action should have been taken many years ago already to avoid the highly volatile and dangerous situation today.
The lack service delivery and a failing government causes violent action such as this. Many voters believe that without getting violent, the government, who does not care about the poor on the ground, will not listen to them.
Elza van Lingen