HECTORSPRUIT – Community members dragged branches and trash onto the nearby N4 on Monday afternoon and caused severe traffic delays for over an hour.
Police rushed to the scene after reports that protesters were hurling rocks at vehicles and that traffic was rerouted.
After about 40 minutes several truck drivers ploughed their vehicles through the trash, followed by motorists, and police managed to calm down the protesters somewhat.
Municipal traffic officials and fire and rescue took up brooms to try and clear the road, but were still slightly hindered by protesters. During the chaos municipal officials addressed protesters and agreed to meet with them the next day to discuss their grievances.
Traffic flow slowly returned to normal despite the uneasy situation and small groups of community members hanging around. Police remained on the scene to monitor the situation and ensure that violence did not flare up again.
According to Nkomazi Local Municipality (NLM) spokesman, Cyril Ripinga, the mayor, mayoral committee and municipal manager met with community members on Tuesday morning to hear their grievances.
One of the community’s greatest concerns is the shortage of water. Ripinga said the municipality is in the process of addressing this. “It is already in our budget for the current financial year. After June a reservoir will be built in the community and the water treatment plant in Mjejane Game Reserve will be upgraded to supply the whole village.”
READ MORE: New developments in the pipeline for Nkomazi
Ripinga mentioned that the water treatment plant in Hectorspruit had already been upgraded.
The process of formalising the Mjejane township by the Department of Human Settlements has been ongoing for several years, and Ripinga stressed that the various processes take time. He explained that the land was part of restituted property and used for agricultural purposes and needed to be transferred to the municipality.
“The land has been transferred and the municipality now has responsibility for the village. The community was not properly informed about these matters and that implementation takes time, which resulted in the protest,” he said.
The community also demanded that a school and clinic be built and municipal officials promised to take their grievances to the departments responsible for these facilities.
Ripinga said the municipality has pledged to provide the community with what it can. This includes trucks to collect waste, periodically sending water tankers and regravelling roads with the help of graders. He also mentioned that the Department of Human Settlements is currently busy with a water reticulation project in the settlement, alongside the township’s formalisation.
The municipality will have ongoing consultations with the community to monitor the progress of the various processes and projects.
The formalisation of Mjejane township was discussed during a talk arranged by the local business chambers in November. Read about it here.
Doctor Nkosi of the Department of Human Settlements addressed local business people and interested parties about this and other developments in Nkomazi.
He stated that they were busy with the formalisation and upgrading of Mjejane. He explained that the process needed to be completed before the necessary social amenities and community services could be delivered.