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Grahamstown: Squatters won’t vote if no service delivery

Squatters won’t vote if no service delivery
by Luvuyo Mjekula

Angry residents of Xolani squatter settlement in Tantyi are “sick and tired of false promises” and will not vote in the upcoming general elections if lack of service delivery continues.

The residents accuse their ward councillor Ntsikelelo Stamper of failing to fulfil his promises to develop the informal settlement. The squatters claim that they have been living without proper housing, toilets and roads and have had no electricity or taps for more than 20 years. The situation is so serious that the residents have resolved to take to the streets and demand action.

On Sunday afternoon, while scores of other Xolani residents feasted at a local traditional ceremony, drinking umqombothi, the concerned residents held a meeting in an open field where they decided that they will march to the City Hall next Tuesday. The residents have approached the municipality and have secured permission to march. They want mayor Pumelelo Kate to intervene.

“Our houses are falling apart, especially when it rains. It’s painful because they have been promising to help us with housing and roads,” said Diana Booi, an obviously fed up 80-year-old resident. “They (government) must help us,” she said.

A furious Thandiwe Sam told Grocotts: “We have been voting for these councilors but they do nothing for us.”

Another resident, Peterson Maswana says nothing is right in the informal settlement. The 90-year-old chairperson of the residents’ working committee said he was concerned about the dump that has developed in the area just below the local Boy Boy Mginywa pre-school. “This place is dirty, it’s like we live in a veld,” said Maswana.

Meanwhile, teachers at the pre-school are worried about the hazard the dump was causing to the children’s health. Principal Florence Gongqa said that the foul smell of dead animals and rubbish is causing flies which easily find their way to the kitchen.

Gongqa said she reported the problem to the municipality again last week but nothing has happened. She said that according to a municipal official, the dump is illegal. “The official said that in the municipality’s map this land is not a dumping site,” said Gongqa.

She is planning to ask the municipality to give the piece of land to the pre-school to use it to build a vegetable garden instead.

The dump is a few metres from Maswana’s house. He and his neighbours complained that councilor Stamper has done nothing for them. They told Grocott’s Mail that the councilor told them that money to build houses for them was available but was inexplicably used to develop another ward. New squatter settlements are getting developed while Xolani squatters continue to live in appalling conditions.
In a meeting at Tantyi Hall two weeks ago, the residents apparently informed Stamper of their dissatisfaction and their intention to take drastic action.

The councilor has also been accused of failing to honour a resolution taken at the same meeting, to elect two residents who would accompany the councilor when he would approach the municipality with the residents’ grievances. They said the councilor did not pitch at the arranged time and when they called him, he said he was out of town.
In an attempt to get help, the residents said they approached the local ANC and SACP branches with no success. The decision not to vote and the ensuing protest march, are last resorts. “We are not going to vote because nothing is being done for us,” said a furious Bennie Belwane.
When contacted, councillor Stamper said the residents should “go ahead and march. I’ll meet them at City Hall. I can handle them”.