Maverick Citizen


Eastern Cape municipality goes to court to block protests by angry residents

Eastern Cape municipality goes to court to block protests by angry residents
Protesters say sewage is running in the streets of Indwe in the Eastern Cape. (Photo: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik)

The Emalahleni Local Municipality has been granted an interdict against protesters who blocked streets in Indwe, Eastern Cape, complaining about water, rubbish collection and sewage.

  • The Grahamstown High Court has granted an interdict against further disruptive protests in Indwe in the Eastern Cape.
  • The Emalahleni Local Municipality said in its court papers that, in protests which have been going on since January, the protesters had insulted municipal employees and removed them from their offices.
  • However, the protests resumed last week.
  • Protesters say they want the municipality to fix the ailing water and sewage systems.

The Emalahleni Local Municipality has been granted an interdict against protesters who blocked the streets of Indwe in the Eastern Cape complaining about water, rubbish collection and sewage.

The protests in the small town outside Komani (formerly Queenstown) started in January and were interrupted last week while protesters tried to get Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane to intervene and to visit the town.

In its application to the Grahamstown High Court, the municipality said that during protests in January, municipal operations had been disrupted, municipal workers had been insulted and removed from their offices and the municipal offices had been closed down. The municipality had sent workers home for their own safety.

The court granted an interim interdict on Monday banning protesters from engaging in acts of “serious violence” and intimidation of municipal employees; from stopping employees from working; from carrying dangerous weapons to intimidate municipal employees, and from victimising people who did not protest. The return date is 7 March.

However, the protests resumed on Tuesday.

Protesters told GroundUp that for four years they had been experiencing water cuts, while rubbish had not been collected and sewerage systems remained broken. They said they raised these issues with both the Chris Hani District Municipality and Emalahleni Local Municipality, to no avail.

Community leader Mandla Cetywayo, who was named in the interdict application, said the Emalahleni municipality is planning to install toilets for R3.46-million – but residents don’t want toilets; they want the money to be used to fix water and sewerage problems. He said the water supply is erratic and sometimes households go without water for weeks.

However, Emalahleni municipal spokesperson, Luthando Nqumkana, said sewerage and water issues are the responsibility of the district, not the local municipality.

Nqumkana said residents had agreed on the toilets after a series of imbizos with the community. The council had approved the final budget, including R3.46-million for 16 toilet units.

eastern cape protest

Filthy water runs past houses in Indwe. (Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi)

The Chris Hani District Municipality mayor, Wonga Gela, said the water problem at Indwe was being worked on. He said load shedding had made it difficult to pump water from the Doring River dam to residents’ taps.

On Tuesday morning, protesters closed all the shops in town and children were forced to stay away from school. Only health facilities were allowed to operate.

Community leader Thabo Khethi said that for the past four years, they have been begging the two municipalities for help.

“Before the protest, we had a number of marches to Emalahleni as our local municipality, since we saw that Chris Hani was failing. The last march was in December. It was after our mayor, Nontombizanele Koni, introduced a [multi-million rand] toilet project. We asked her not to build toilets,  but to instead assist in solving this water problem,” said Khethi.

He said Koni promised to take the matter to a council meeting and report back to them.

Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations

Khethi said while they were waiting for the report-back, they heard that a ward committee member was hiring people to work on a toilet project.

“That angered the community because we don’t need those toilets… we need water,” he said.

“Our request to Emalahleni is very simple: use the money for toilets to fix the real problems we are facing. We need water. I don’t understand what is so difficult for two municipalities led by one political party to work together to solve the problem faced by people who voted for them,” he said.

“They are failing us, including our ward councillors and their ward committees. We are now calling on Premier Mabuyane to come and force them to work together. We can’t continue living like this,” he said.

While residents were chanting and carrying placards on Tuesday, MEC Nonceba Kontsiwe, the “District Development Model Champion” for the Chris Hani District Municipality, arrived. She was accompanied by mayors Gela and Koni.

Kontsiwe told residents that Mabuyane had sent her to listen to their grievances.

She wanted the meeting to be held in a community hall but residents refused, saying she should also experience the smell of sewage in the town.

After listening to protesters’ grievances, she said she would brief Mabuyane and promised that the premier would visit the area within seven days. DM

First published by GroundUp.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted


This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.

Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options