Johannesburg – Gauteng Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and Human Settlements MEC Paul Mashatile conceded on Friday that government had dragged its feet in terms of service delivery and apologised to the Ennerdale and Finetown communities.
He said it was regrettable that the communities had to burn tyres to get his attention.
Mashatile was speaking at a meeting in the Region G offices with the steering committees of Ennerdale and Finetown, following violent service delivery protests for housing.
“I am sorry that you had to burn tyres to get my attention. I am just a phone call away,” Mashatile said on Friday.
On Friday, there was visible policing in the small town but there were no signs of protests.
An angry resident, Farouk Jardine, stood up and told the gathering that he was bored by the speeches and presentations, including that of Mashatile.
“Today you call us … while the townships are burning, you tell us this. This is not the response that we expected. And if the Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is as boring as you are, then I am going straight to her face.
“It is a sin to see this vast open land around us and yet people have to live like sardines on the land…We are giving you two weeks to go and identify this land and allow people to settle on that land,” Jardine said.
He said if Mashatile does not heed the call to make land available then the community would mobilise and occupy the land illegally.
“If we have to do it by force then we will do it. You can call in the army, are you going to shoot people without houses? That would only be exposing yourselves.”
He said it saddened him that after 23 years of democracy, people were still demanding houses.
“You don’t know the pressure that people on the ground are going through, living in backrooms; you don’t have a job but you have to pay rent… If you had pressure, then you would have come with proper answers today, not what you have said.”
Responding to the man, Mashatile said while he understood the community’s frustration and the urgency for houses, he could not allow a situation where people occupied land illegally.
“There will be chaos around the country, we need to plan properly. I know that we need to move faster but we need orderly development.”
He promised the community that the government would come up with a budget to build them houses.
“The spirit of our meeting should be, let’s get things done.”
‘It was never our intention’
He accepted that the government had taken too long to deliver.
“You should not be waiting three months for departments to comment on a simple report. It can be done speedily. We need to be able to tell communities when we meet them that this is when construction will begin.”
He said communities became impatient when they were not informed on progress.
Another community member from neighbouring community Finetown said there had been divisions and disputes over land between it and the Ennerdale community, despite the two communities co-existing under one ward.
“This extension six that you are talking about, there have been disputes over it. Ennerdale said we can’t [go there] because we are black people, we smell [but] when we were protesting, we [Ennerdale and Finetown] did it together because our children need houses. Today we feel left out,” the man said.
After the meeting, chairperson of the Ennerdale Project Steering Committee, Marge Cass, said the meeting was productive and the community understood that the government needed to be given adequate time to deliver services.
She said Mashatile said he had received documents that the community had been waiting for for six months.
“This tells me that in this government, you need to burn something like infrastructure or be violent so that they can come to the party and it was never our intention to go down that route.
“Even in the past, for the MEC to even address us, we had to make a lot of noise and protest. After this week’s protest, all of a sudden documents have been signed.”
On the complaint made by a community member from Finetwon, Cass said when the housing database was drawn, it included Ennerdale and Finetown.
“There is a thin line between us and Finetown. We are literally separated by a bridge and it is not a fair statement to say that we have not been speaking on behalf of them, we are all under the same ward crying for the same course,” she said.
Mashatile also said it was a productive meeting, however, he said, “We want to avoid a situation where we have to see a problem and a problem for coloureds and another for black people, we need to deal with the issue as one.”
He said overall it was a good meeting with people complaining that it had taken the government long to deliver services.
“All that is needed is for the city to comment on the plans so that we can decide when we are going to start with construction,” he said.
Mashatile rushed to meet with Eldorado Park after the meeting.