South Africa: Pensioners Travel From East London to Pretoria After Buffalo City Metro ‘Ignores’ Their Complaints

“We are tired of the ANC abusing us” says Mdantsane resident

  • A group of pensioners and unemployed youth from East London in the Eastern Cape sat in packed taxis for a 12-hour trip to the Union Buildings in Pretoria.
  • They wanted to take their grievances directly to the Office of the Presidency because their attempts to raise their complaints with Buffalo City Metro and provincial government leadership have been fruitless.
  • The community members accuse their ward councillors of nepotism. Other complaints include lack of accountability in budget allocations, and lack of support for flood victims.

In a desperate bid to demand better living conditions within their community, a group of frustrated residents from East London in the Eastern Cape hired two taxis to drive them to the Union Buildings in Pretoria last week.

The group of 30 pensioners and unemployed youth representing wards 12, 17, and 30 in Mdantsane say they wanted to take their grievances directly to the Office of the Presidency as their attempts to raise their concerns with the leadership at the Buffalo City Metro and provincial government have been fruitless.

In May this year, GroundUp reported that 100 job seekers protested and marched to their ward councillor’s office in Mdantsane. They wanted to be employed in a local road project under construction. The residents were accusing Ward 30 Councillor Notyilelo Whittington (ANC) of nepotism, claiming she only gives job opportunities to relatives and fellow ANC members.

Whittington denied this.

These residents were then joined by others from wards 12 and 17 who also complained that the municipality has been ignoring their concerns. They marched to the offices of Buffalo City Metro Mayor Princess Faku on 6 July, but the mayor was not there to receive their memorandum.

That was when they decided to save and collect money to pay for transport in a bid to be heard by the Presidency.

Community representative Siya Mpambani said people were upset that the mayor appeared to be uninterested in their plight. No-one from the mayor’s office bothered to meet them despite being given prior notice of their march.

“We decided that this needed to be escalated to a higher office of the Premier and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA). Memorandums were also sent to those offices. To date there are no responses,” Mpambani told GroundUp.

In their memorandum to the Presidency, handed over on Thursday 10 August, the community members stated they had repeatedly expressed discontent with their councillors’ hiring practices for community projects.

“In Ward 30, councillor Nontyilelo Whittington has demonstrated nepotism in hiring community members for EPWP projects. The councillor’s interference in the selection of ward committee members and area committees. This raises concern about transparency and fairness. Inadequate project management and poor communication with the community have further hindered progress in the wards,” the memorandum read. Other complaints include the lack of accountability in budget allocations and a lack of support for flood victims.

Speaking to GroundUp outside the Union Buildings, pensioner Thenjiwe Ndamandama from Ward 30, said: “When they want our votes, they pretend to like us. Once they’re in power, they don’t even want to come close to us. Our kids are not unemployed. Our councillor hires the same people for different projects. In one family, she even hires four or five people… We are tired of the ANC abusing us.”

Fundiswa Makhalima from Ward 17 said: “We walk in overflowing sewage and no one cares at all. We don’t have plastic bags and burn our rubbish and sometimes dump it on street corners. When employment opportunities come up, the councillor tells us that the ANC tradition says their volunteers must be the first priority for employment. I’m a single mother and live with my brother who is also unemployed.”

Spokesperson for the Presidency, Vincent Ngcobondwane, received and signed the group’s memorandum. He promised the office would follow up with the municipality, the Premier, and COGTA offices in the Eastern Cape.

In response to our questions about the residents’ allegations, Buffalo City Metro spokesperson Samnkelo Ngwenya said the municipality was aware of the issues affecting residents in Wards 12, 17, and 30.

“We’re dealing with these issues on an individual basis. Some might be muddied with political contestations. Our obligation is to ensure we process genuine service delivery issues that are raised by residents,” said Ngwenya.

He said they urged residents to engage the municipality to deal with concerns over ethical conduct.

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