11 May 2016
On Tuesday In France ‘location’, ward 18 of Pietermaritzburg, fed-up residents protested against ward councillor Sindisiwe Gwala. Richmond road was barricaded with burning tyres and stones. Cars and taxis were blocked from using the road. Residents carried placards and sang struggle songs; some shouted, “Sindi must fall!” Stones were thrown at the police.
Police dispersed protesters with rubber bullets and teargas. This is the second protest against Gwala who is currently a ward councillor for residents in Mpumelelo (in France), Extension and Thornville.
Gwala has been ward 18 councillor for five years. Last month, residents became vocal against Gwala standing for re-election.
Community spokesperson Wonder Ndlovu said, “The whole ward has no water as we speak. We have tried speaking to her, but instead she swears at us. We have been free for 20 years, but we don’t have electricity and other basic needs. How can one live without water?”
“We are living like pigs; we wash and bath in the same water. After washing clothes we spare water that has been used for washing clothes for bathing. Is that a life of a human being living in a country that is democratic? We are tired of being treated like pigs. We are human beings and we will fight for our rights. The ANC must stop choosing ward councillors for us. The ANC Region has failed us because they are in control,” said Ndlovu.
Another resident, Mabuyi Khoza, said the protest will continue until their voices are heard.
“If it means we burn the schools, we will do that with pleasure. Gwala is not approachable and she has done nothing for the community. She must step down, I don’t how she sleeps at night. We don’t even have toilets. I don’t know if she understands the meaning of service delivery. There are people who can do better than her and that is why we are saying she must vamoose. This is only the beginning, the worst is still to come. If it means we burn her office for her to see how serious we are, we will do that. Enough is enough now; she must fall,” said Khoza.
“We don’t want other political parties to interfere in the matter now,” said Siya Nhlapho. “Other opposition parties are happy when they see ANC ward councillors being protested at. That is not right, but the ANC is making us a joke to other political parties. As much as we love the ANC, but we feel we are being betrayed. ANC has failed us; they are corrupt and selfish. They benefit themselves in everything. They are greedy and forget that the ordinary people are the ones that put them where they are,” said Nhlapho.
KZN police spokesperson Major Thulani Zwane said thousands of protesters blocked Richmond road.
“In the early hours of the morning, members of the France community blocked roads with burning tyres and stones during a service delivery protest and nomination of ward councillor candidates.
“A case of public violence was opened at Alexandra Road Police station for investigation and no arrests have been made. Public Order Police and Alexandra Road police are still monitoring the situation.”
Gwala refused to comment, saying that she is not in a position to respond to the questions by GroundUp because is not feeling well. When asked when she will be ready to respond, she said: “I won’t be able to comment on the matter because I am not feeling well.”
KZN provincial spokesperson for the ANC, Mdumiseni Ntuli, responded that the ANC does not choose the candidates on their own and the community is always involved. He said he had not heard anything specific about Gwala.
He said, “All the proposed candidates are presented to the community before anything is being finalised. The proposed candidates are elected from the branches, then they are presented to the community during a community meeting. The people have a right to point out if they are not happy with any of the four candidates that are being chosen. If they feel that candidate one should be candidate four, they are welcome to voice that. In most cases it transpires that the unhappy people are not always the majority, but a group of people. As a democratic country, we work with what the majority is saying.”
GroundUp has covered a number of community protests in the past 30 days that continue to break out in other wards (see stories on ward 29, ward 12, and ward 17) in Pietermaritzburg, as residents try to jettison candidates and ward councilors before the looming local elections.