| JOHANNESBURG

Alexandra residents protest in Sandton over state of township

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“We want to burn our tyres here so that these streets can look like the streets of Alexandra”

Photo of protesters
On Wednesday morning about 100 residents of Alexandra township in Johannesburg marched from Alexandra stadium to municipal offices in Sandton to express their frustration over the lack of services in their area. Photo: Zoë Postman
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On Wednesday morning about a hundred residents of Alexandra township marched from Alexandra stadium to municipal offices in Sandton to express their frustration over the lack of services and illegal structures in the township.

The protesting residents, escorted by metro police, said they had not received responses from Mayor Herman Mashaba to the demands they had made at the time of the #AlexShutDown in April.

One of the protest leaders, Thandiwe Mthombeni, said, “We are not saying that Alexandra was perfect before, but we can’t allow it to get worse than what it was … There are a lot of potholes in the roads. Pikitup [refuse removal] doesn’t come as they should. There are a lot of illegal structures, and crime is very high.”

She said the community wanted change. “We have been very peaceful and we are respecting the law, but they are provoking us by not taking us seriously.”

Zolile Mjika, who moved to Alexandra 20 years ago, said he’d seen very little improvement in the township.

“The only language that the government understands is [protest] otherwise we won’t be able to get through to them,” he said. “You saw the dire situation in Alexandra - the filthiness and the sewage all over … How can they let us live like pigs yet they want to ask for our votes?”

“Elections are over now and they have made many promises in Alexandra … But they go back and sit in their nice offices and eat nice muffins … They don’t care about us,” said Mjika.

He said the residents would continue to protest until “we see them in our community fixing potholes, cleaning the streets, and building houses for us”.

Marching through the streets of Sandton, Mjika said, “We want to burn our tyres here so that these streets can look like the streets of Alexandra”.

Mthombeni said the police had prevented them from burning tyres during the march. “Why did they allow us to burn tyres in Alexandra but they won’t allow us to do the same in Sandton? It goes to show that they allow anything to happen in Alexandra because they think nothing of us,” she said.

Mthombeni said the residents expected Mashaba or Premier David Makhura to accept their memorandum. No one came out to receive the memorandum.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Mashaba referred to the planned protests as “the next round of politically-driven disruptions”. He said no representative of the City would meet with the residents because “their interests are not those of the legitimate residents of Alexandra”.

“While the multi-party government believes fundamentally in the right to protest and raise grievances, the Alexandra Shutdown Movement must not be mistaken for anything other than a politically sponsored vehicle to protect the corrupt interests of those who have profited from the looting of the ARP [Alexandra Renewal Project],” read the statement.

The Alexandra Renewal Project, initially worth R1.3 billion, was launched in 2001 to develop Alexandra.

Mashaba said there was no question that the residents of Alexandra had valid grievances, which he said was in part, a result of “looting” of the ARP.

“In light of the enormous backlogs inherited, this change cannot all be achieved, across the City, in the time we have been in office,” said Mashaba.

He said R35 million had been allocated to develop the hostels in Alexandra in the 2018/19 financial year. The City had also made increased allocations to road resurfacing, water and sewer mains replacement and the electrification of informal settlements in the 2018/19 financial year.

“The City is in the process of training an additional 1500 JMPD [Johannesburg police] officers. These officers, to be deployed in October, will improve by-law enforcement and visible policing,” read the statement. “Pikitup is finalising the introduction of a second weekly refuse collection round in Alexandra. This is scheduled to begin this week.”

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