Public Protector Advocate Thuli Madonsela has reiterated her call to communities in the country to use constitutional structures before resorting to violent protests which often deprive others their constitutional rights. She also appealed to municipalities to improve on communication with communities as failure to communicate at times results in unnecessary protests.
Having informed the community that had packed the Bensoville Teachers College Hall in Sterkspruit beyond capacity, that the Constitution is our greatest heritage, the Public Protector urged people to become informed and active citizens. She called upon people to give constitutional democracy a chance by participating in democratic processes.
Themed “Embracing diversity in pursuit of accessibility to all persons,” the event also coupled as the Public Protector’s constitutional injunction to accessible to all persons and communities.
The Public Protector’s call comes in the wake of service delivery protests that recently engulfed the area which falls under the Joe Gqabi District Municipality. Complaints in the area mainly related to water, employment opportunities and roads which communities alleged were in poor conditions.
Communities in the area also accused the local Municipality of among others “corruption.” Many of the allegations were levelled against local mayors, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Municipal Manager.
They also complained about construction of a local taxi rank which they alleged that the Municipality had promised to improve but nothing has happened. The complaints included various allegations of tender irregularities, including nepotism, corruption and exclusion of local businesses in the project.
High electricity tariffs were also raised. Communities further alleged to the Public Protector that the Joe Gqabi Economic Development Agency (Joegeda) was not benefiting communities of Sterkspruit. They asked the Public Protector to investigate the directorship and financial affairs of the agency.
Others complained about lack of community hall, access to water and sanitation. One complaint told the Public Protector that a Municipality project involving the construction of toilets leaving the half built toilets unattended and posing a danger to community, particularly children. The Public Protector was informed that a two-year-old child had died due to this abandoned project. One complaint that was repeated by various complaints was the alleged relocation of municipal headquarters from Sterkspruit to Lady Grey.
The Public Protector promised communities she will engage local authorities on their complaints. The Public Protector undertook to facilitate a process that will ensure that urgent matters are attended to by local and provincial authorities expeditiously. She further advised that she will immediately investigate allegations of improper conduct and that communities should assist with evidence.