R2K Gauteng statement on situation in Thembelihle
Thembelihle is burning. One person is dead and at least three are wounded. Sixteen are in jail. The community’s voice is not being heard!
All of this is the result of the community’s protest against poor service delivery and the unresponsiveness from Gauteng MEC of Human Settlements, Jacob Mamabolo.
Police have only charged one of the 16, but continue to hold the others in custody. Some of the arrested protestors belong to the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (TCC), an affiliate of the Right2Know Campaign (Gauteng).
Evidence gathered from the TCC shows that Thembelihle residents decided to take to the streets this week as they felt ignored by the MEC of the Human Settlements Jacob Mamabolo. Members of the TCC submitted a memorandum to the MEC on 4 November 2014 on issues of service delivery (water, electricity and sanitation) and subsequently met the MEC at his offices on 12 November. MEC Mamabolo promised to come back to the community on these issues within 7 days’ time and pledged to hold a mass meeting with all members of Thembelihle so that he can report the progress on these issues. Three months on and this has not happened.
Last Sunday, there was a mass meeting in Thembelihle to discuss the MEC’s failure to address or even respond to these issues. After the meeting residents decided to block the streets and demand the MEC to come and address them. Soon thereafter, a delegation of five people from the MEC’s office came to the community, only to report that the MEC would be available in two weeks’ time.
When TCC leaders reported this at a mass meeting yesterday (Wednesday), there was great anger. The residents said “we want him now” and resolved to continue their protests. In the words of one of TCC leaders: “The only way for them to come down is for us to go to the streets; that’s the language they understand.” Local government is sending a message to Thembelihle that you won’t be heard if you don’t take drastic action.
The action yesterday ended in a confrontation with some residents of the neighbouring area of Lenasia, including a shooting that has left one Thembelihle resident dead and three wounded. This is a tragic incident and could have been avoided if the police and local government were doing their jobs properly.
Today, 16 members of the community were arrested and are still in jail, although only one has been charged. It is not clear why they are being held without a charge: police must either charge them or release them.
We fully anticipate that Thembelihle residents, including leaders of the TCC will be painted as hooligans and thugs.
This ignores their countless efforts to bring local government leaders to the table to hear and resolve the community’s concerns. It also ignores that yesterday, while TCC leaders met with the MEC’s delegation, members of the community learned that a group of people had taken part in looting (with specific targets being shops owned/managed by foreign nationals). Through the TCC, residents worked with the police to search for those who had taken part, and 14 fridges were found and 5 people arrested. On that front the TCC, community members and police worked together, until it emerged that the MEC would not come to the community as promised.
The message from Thembelihle Crisis Committee members is that the community feels abandoned and not listened to. The MEC has ignored their concerns and demands for months, and when residents’ frustration boiled over, they were met with rubber bullets and tear gas (which has been indiscriminately fired into residents’ homes).
We call on the MEC’s office to resolve this crisis immediately – go to Thembelihle and deliver on your promise!
For comment contact:
Bhayiza Miya (Thembelihle Crisis Committee): 073 618 1521
Bongani Xezwi (R2K Gauteng Organiser): 073 904 1626