9 April 2019

South Africa: Politicians Have Failed Us, Say Alexandra Residents

President Cyril Ramaphosa is due to visit Alexandra on Thursday following days of protest by residents who marched to Sandton on Monday.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba said the president would visit the township on Thursday.

Mashaba is due to meet leaders of the Alexandra protests on Friday, according to municipal manager Ndivho Lukhwareni. So far the mayor has not addressed residents despite their repeated demands that he do so.

On Monday, Lukhwareni attempted to address the protesters but the crowd started chanting, "Who are you?" They refused to let him speak, demanding to be addressed by Mashaba.

Lukhwareni explained that Mashaba was busy with commitments in other communities and could only meet the leaders of the protest on Friday and the rest of the community on Monday next week.

About 70 residents had marched from San Kopano Hall in Alexandra to municipal offices in Sandton, demanding that Mashaba address them on problems with refuse collection, toilets, clinics, sewage systems and overcrowding in the township.

Alexandra is one of the oldest townships in Johannesburg and is situated close to Sandton - the city's financial and business district and one of the most affluent areas.

The march was a continuation of protests which started in Alexandra last week.

"We decided to come here to Sandton since the Mayor was scared to address us in Alex last week... We are on his doorstep now so he can't ignore us," said resident Thabo Hadebe.

In a statement on 8 April, Mashaba accused the ANC of "electioneering tactics" in Alexandra.

Mashaba said the City was willing to engage with the residents. He said the multiparty government would account for what it has done in Alexandra over the past two and a half years and he challenged the ANC government "to come speak to its success in Alexandra over the last 25 years".

But Hadebe said politicians were making the protest political yet it was not. "Mashaba is welcome to confront the ANC about their failures, but he must come address his people here on the ground because he is in power now."

Hadebe said Mashaba came to Alexandra ahead of the last election and promised to develop the township. "He was elected into power so we gave him three years to see what he will do ... But he has done nothing for the people of Alex in that time," said Hadebe.

He said the residents also blamed the ANC for its failures, but Mashaba was currently in power and should be held accountable.

Another resident, Thabo Shabangu, said the protest had been organised before the elections because it was the best time to highlight the issues in the community. He said that while politicians were campaigning for votes "we need to remind them of what our struggles are and how they have failed us".

"Ramaphosa shouldn't think his visit to Alexandra is going to be easy," said Hadebe. "He will be treated the same as Mashaba. We want answers why our community has been neglected and how they will fix it, regardless of political parties".

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