R72 protests expose failure of independent councillor

By Andrew Whitfield, MP, Frontier constituency leader:

Reports of renewed protest action on the R72 at Kenton-on-Sea were received this morning.  

The protests on the R72 outside Kenton-on-Sea are driven by the frustrations of the Ekuphumleni community which has been failed by their councillor.

Since 2011, when an independent councillor was elected to serve Ward 4 residents, service delivery has dramatically declined across the ward.

Now, in an attempt to make himself relevant, the independent councillor has been working with members of the EFF to challenge the Ndlambe Municipality, in typical EFF style, according to community members.

Political leaders must never use the frustrations of a community to undermine the rule of law in pursuit of their own personal political goals. The question that must now be asked is why, after almost five years, is this independent councillor leading such protests and what has he done to address these issues since 2011.

In response to the protests last Monday (24 May) the DA called a public meeting at the Kenton town hall for Ward 4 residents including Kenton-on-Sea and Ekuphumleni on Friday, the 29th.

At this meeting I raised concerns that the legal protest of Monday 24 May had deteriorated into an illegal protest when it spilled over onto the R72 obstructing traffic and placing the lives of motorists and protestors at risk. This can never be tolerated and the rule of law must be upheld.

There was a strong sense of community that emanated from the meeting with residents from all corners of the ward united in the feeling that the municipality was ignoring their service delivery needs. A great deal of empathy was shared at the meeting and there was agreement that while the issues varied for residents, they believed that the issues required the collective concern of all.

Having received complaints from protestors I also raised concerns with the manner in which the police dealt with the situation by firing rubber bullets allegedly before exhausting all other methods at their disposal including the deployment of a water cannon.

The memorandum of demands from frustrated community members, of which I have a copy, listed a number of concerns relating to housing and a multitude of service delivery issues.

I have undertaken to write to the Minister of Human Settlements to bring the matter of the delayed housing project in Ekuphumleni to her attention. I will also write to the Minister of Cooperative Governance to draw his attention to the numerous service delivery failures faced by this community. Lastly the Minister of Police must be made aware of the response of the Public Order Police to the protestors on Monday 24 May.

I have committed to working with the community to drive their issues in Parliament. If we work together at every level of government we can apply the right kind of pressure to bring about change. All South Africans have the right to protest but this must always be balanced by the responsibility to uphold the rule of law.
The DA will continue to monitor this situation very closely and stay in close contact with the community.