Gauteng Right2Know Statement: Police must get out of Thembelihle: MEC Mamabolo must engage with the community and deliver on his promises!
Further to Right2Know’s statement issued on 26 February on the situation in Thembelihle, the Right2Know Campaign’s ongoing engagement with the Thembelihle community has revealed the following:
The Thembelihle community began protesting at 6am this morning after Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Jacob Mamabolo failed to honour a commitment to come speak to them yesterday as promised (although Mamabolo was heard on the media making promises about service delivery in Thembelihle and others informal settlements).
This morning the police have been attacking people with tear gas and rubber bullets as well as harassing community leader Bhayiza Miya and his family, checking their cell phones, and ‘confiscating’ material – including Right2Know Campaign publications.
We deplore the heavy-handed treatment and abuse of Thembelihle community members by the police in the wake of the protests.
We call on the media to report on the situation in Thembelihle with respect to the historical context of the current crisis, listen to the community rather than stereotype them as hooligans, and hold Mamabolo to account. The residents of Thembelihle are not hooligans, have followed all available channels for engagement with officials, and have found that their voice is continually ignored.
We call on MEC Mamabolo to resolve this crisis, engage with the community directly and not through the police, and deliver on his promises!
Background to Government’s filature to engage the Thembelihle community.
On 16 October 2014, Thembelihle residents marched peacefully in their thousands to the local municipal office (Corrobrick Building), to handover a memorandum of grievances and demands directed to the Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Jacob Mamabolo, with regard to water, electricity and sanitation. He was later asked to address the community on issues raised in the memorandum. The MEC responded by instead sending a representative from his office to address the community. Subsequently, a meeting was arranged between the MEC and representatives from the community, consisting mostly of members of the Thembelihle Crisis Committee (a community based organisation taking up service delivery issues and the struggle for the upgrading of Thembelihle into an acceptable residential area).
This meeting with the MEC was held on 4November 2014. The meeting resulted in a number of positive decisions on the way forward, and representatives from the community were convinced that at last they had met a man who was willing to listen to community concerns and address them in good-faith. The most important agreement, inter alia, was that all the decisions would be recorded and this would be communicated to the community in writing through their representatives within a timeframe of one week from the date of the meeting. To date this ‘black and white’ agreement or decision document has not been delivered to the community representatives as agreed. Attempts to solicit this document by community representatives have not been successful.
Additionally, the MEC had promised to address the community on agreements reached at the meeting before going on holiday in December 2015, but this also did not materialise. From February 2015, community representatives have tried to get the MEC to deliver on his promises, but with no success. Representatives from Thembelihle who met with the MEC on 4 November 2014, and who subsequently reported to Thembelihle residents on the content of the meeting, currently feel that they have been turned into liars since none of the MEC’s promises (let alone the actual issues to be addressed) have been honoured. This puts community representatives who agreed to meet with the MEC at risk, over and above the loss of confidence in them by some members of the community.
On 22 February 2015 a community mass meeting was held in Thembelihle. The meeting resolved that the community had followed all formal avenues, and allowed sufficient time for the MEC to deliver on his promises, to no avail. The community mass meeting reached the conclusion that only option still available was to make a strong statement, loud and clear, by embarking on protest action.
Thembelihle residents therefore began protesting on 23 February, calling for the MEC to deliver on his promises as per the meeting held between him and the community representatives on 4 November 2014. This day coincided with the State of The Province address, and residents were told that the MEC was unavailable as a result. On 24 February members from the MEC’s office arrived to meet representatives of the community. They indicated that the MEC would only be able to address the community after another 14 days. The members from the MEC’s office also requested a suspension of the protest action. Community representatives proposed that in the absence of the MEC, the members of the MEC’s office should communicate whatever information they could regarding the demands of the community and with reference to the 4 November 2014 meeting, at a community mass meeting. The suggestion was declined by the MEC officials.
Representatives of the community reported the outcomes of the meeting with these MEC officials to another mass community meeting. The majority present at the meeting rejected the proposal from MEC officials to suspend the protest. Furthermore, the mass meeting resolved that it would gather again after exactly 14 days, on 10 March 2015, in anticipation of the MEC’s address to the community.
Thembelihle residents therefore gathered in a mass meeting at Thembelihle Park station, on the 10th March at 13h00 and waited for the MEC. The MEC did not arrive for this meeting. This angered the community severely. After a series of meetings and consultations within the community, the Thembelihle residents have decided to re-embark on protest action.
The Right2Know Campaign calls on MEC Mamabolo to resolve this crisis, engage with the community and deliver on his promises!
For further comment contact:
Bhayiza Miya (Thembelihle Crisis Committee): 073 618 1521
Bongani Xezwi (R2K Gauteng Organiser): 073 904 1626