“This place is a very peaceful place. Even when people were burning buildings and looting shops in Kagiso and Bekkersdal we said we will not do that. This is the first protest Mohlakeng has ever had,” says 39-year-old Puleng Mogorosi.
Mogorosi said people burned buildings on Wednesday because the police shot at a peaceful march from Mohlakeng to Randfontein.
The march was the community’s attempt to present the local municipality with a list of grievances, among them the increase in water and electricity rates, which most community members cannot afford. Increased levels of corruption in their municipality were also forward on the list.
“I am unemployed. I am forced to rent out rooms in my backyard and that’s my only means of income. My tenants pay me R1 700 together and the municipality charges me R600 for rent and R600 for water,” she said.
Mogorosi lives in a four-roomed house with her daughter and a young brother. She has been informed that the municipality planned to shut off the water supply and the electricity later that day. The same municipality has not informed her when they plan to switch on the lights and open their taps.
She draws water from a silver pot and pours it into a bucket. She uses the water to clean the tiled four-room house.
“After the rent and electricity I only have R500 left for the month. I have no food, no transport, my child doesn’t have food. And now they tell us we must pay more for rates because they owe Eskom money,” she said.
Mogorosi said she didn’t agree with the burning down of the maternity clinic and the library but she understood why people were angry. She also said that many of the youth were unemployed and when jobs in the local media became available, the municipality leaders gave them to their families and friends.
“We joined the EFF to deliver the memorandum of demands to the mayor [Sylvia Thebenare].”
“I am a member of the ANC but with the ANC we got freedom of movement but no economic freedom. There is high unemployment here. We are being squeezed,” she said.
‘The ANC is haemorrhaging’
In an attempt to cool the waters after the violent protests that took place on Wednesday, the ANC called on Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in the same way it did in the run up to the 2014 national elections after the Bekkersdal’s violent protests.
Speaking to journalists, Madikizela-Mandela said: “I am deeply shocked and the most disappointing part is that we’re supposed to be celebrating 20 years of democracy. I can’t imagine how any responsible South African would burn a clinic, a library and a mayor’s house. Only yesterday we were dealing with the so-called xenophobia attacks. I can’t deny that the ANC is haemorrhaging.”
According to Mogorosi people have become aware that the ANC is not able to fulfil the promises they made in 1994.
“We don’t have water, we don’t have lights, most people don’t have houses, the ANC has failed to deliver,” she said.
The failure by the ANC to deliver on its promises and the frustrations felt by the Mohlakeng community made it easy for the West Rand Economic Freedom Fighters [EFF] party to mobilise the community for a peaceful march against the ANC-run municipality.
Voting for the EFF
The EFF drafted a memorandum of demands, which was later hijacked by the community as they felt that the issues raised in the memorandum transcended politics and the service delivery protests appear to have become valuable political capital.
“It doesn’t matter if you are ANC or EFF or Cope or DA, everyone from the community took part in the peaceful march, but the police shot at us with rubber bullets and teargas,” said Mogorosi.
Twenty-three-year-old Steve Sithole said he joined the march because he had been unemployed since he completed his matric in 2009.
“These guys [the local municipality] don’t give us learnerships, there is no training or skills development but we see them and their kids driving fancy cars and eating in fancy restaurants,” he said.
“Look the youth has regressed to drinking and gambling because we are frustrated. When job opportunities come out, these guys give them to their friends and family,” said Sithole.
Sithole, who has voted for the ANC in the previous elections said he was ready for change and will be voting for the EFF in the 2016 municipal elections.