At about 3am on Sunday morning, residents of Sobantu in Pietermaritzburg barricaded roads with burning tyres and rocks and stopped drivers entering or leaving the township. The protests are over housing and crumbling infrastructure.
Protesters then took taxis to Pietermaritzburg city hall, where ANC Secretary General Ace Magashule had a 10am meeting with the leadership of the Moses Mabhida Region. The meeting was to discuss whether a regional ANC conference would be held in June. The Sobantu residents joined other community members, many in ANC T-shirts, who want the ANC Regional Executive Committee (REC) dissolved.
The protesters demanded entry to the city hall and blocked all exits. They chanted, sung struggle songs and swore at Msunduzi deputy mayor Thobani Zuma.
“There will be no conference,” said Sanele Zimu from Dambuza. “We want an REC that will not support corrupt officials in Msunduzi municipality. We are not going anywhere. None of them will leave this building. We want answers. They must tell us what is delaying service delivery in Greater Edendale.”
Protesters were eventually allowed into the city hall to table their concerns with Magashule. He promised to report to the ANC NEC and he left at about 5pm.
Residents say there was a sod turning ceremony for a housing project in 2010, and now they want answers. “Where is the money for that project?” asked Musa Ndaba.
“After that sod turning they disappeared. We are still waiting. It’s been eight years … We have protested, but nothing has been done … This is not the first protest. If they continue ignoring us, we will continue with the protest. We will close the freeway,” said Ndaba.
Sobantu ward councillor Sandile Dlamini said the municipality had failed the residents. “Look at our buildings. They are a mess. The municipality has done nothing for Sobantu residents.”
Nomzamo Zulu said the township is one of the oldest and has a rich history, but its buildings are falling down. “Sobantu has not been developed for decades,” she said. “It’s a shame. There is a hall named after Anton Mfenendala Xaba. He played a huge role in the formation of an ANC branch in Sobantu. He was born here. The hall is falling apart. It has holes; windows are broken; the walls are cracking. This is the only hall in Sobantu.”
“We have ageing infrastructure named after our heroes. The ANC is a disgrace to us and upcoming generations. They are failures,” said Zulu.
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