Engcobo residents demand mayor step down
Community organisations allege corruption, demand municipality be put under administration
Hundreds of residents of Engcobo in the Eastern Cape protested on Wednesday and Thursday, alleging corruption and demanding that Mayor Lizeka Bongo-Tyali step down.
The Black Business Forum, South African National Civic Organisation (SANCO), as well as the taxi and the ratepayers association supported the march. Among the demands are that Eastern Cape Premier Phumulo Masualle dissolve the municipality and appoint an administrator.
The protest started on Wednesday. Some residents threatened to jump the municipal fence and to beat the mayor, but police and security officers kept a tight perimeter around the municipal offices. A placard read “Lizeka Must fall” and the crowd sang a song, Lizeka uzowa ufane wakwela ecingweni (Lizeka you will fall even if you can climb the fence).
The municipal offices and all shops, including petrol stations, were shut. Residents at first forced truck drivers travelling on the R61 to Mthatha to block entrances to Engcobo with their trucks.
“This Municipality only serves individuals,” said Dumisa Nobenza, chairperson of the Black Business Forum. “Since 2016, we have been sending petitions here demanding service delivery with no luck. People need toilets, clean water and proper houses, but what we get is a number of empty promises.”
He said, “As residents we have decided to come here and close this municipality because obviously they do not take us seriously.”
Resident Ntomboxolo Rhashula, from Bhojana, said that in her area there are no toilets, no accessible roads and the bridge the municipality was building is unfinished.
“Our children do not go to school if it is raining because the river will overflow and they will be unable to cross … If it happens that the rain starts when they are still in school, we have to send people to go wait for them in the river and help them cross,” she said.
On Wednesday the protesters waited for five hours before Monde Sotana, the service delivery monitor of the premier, was sent, but the demonstrators said it was too late for talking and taking down grievances. Sotana tried to contact the premier telephonically in front of the crowd and put the phone on loud speaker, but the premier’s phone was off.
Bantu Songca of SANCO said that they will continue with the protests until the mayor steps down.
According to Lusizo Ntshinka, communications officer of Engcobo municipality, a petition was given to the premier who promised to respond within seven days. He confirmed the municipality had previously received petitions and he said demands had been attended to. “We hope for the best because our interest is to see people getting services they voted for … I trust they will come around and let us deliver services to our people,’’ said Ntshinka.
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