President Cyril Ramaphosa has instructed several ministers and the ANC provincial government to immediately meet with the organisers of the #TotalShutDownAlex protest in an attempt to find a speedy resolution to the impasse.
The president made this call when he addressed Alexandra residents at the Alexandra stadium on Thursday.
He said it was imperative for his subordinates – including the ministers of small business development, human settlements, home affairs, and cooperative governance and traditional affairs – to listen to the community’s grievances and brief him on the matter by next week.
Ramaphosa’s visit to the township came after the residents embarked on a protracted shut down of the township and some roads leading into the more affluent Sandton.
Ramaphosa said since Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba of the DA “has repeatedly refused to engage” with the residents he had decided to come in person to witness for himself the issues being raised by the disgruntled residents.
“I have been informed of the numerous problems affecting the residents of Alexandra. Your message is very clear and it has reverberated throughout the entire country. You as the people of Alexandra are sick and tired of poor service delivery and that you want people who are going to serve you better.”
He also added that while driving into the area he had witnessed first-hand the “indecent” living conditions that the community was being subjected to.
“There is sewage flowing all over the area, there are rats, there is uncollected garbage and the local government which falls under the mayor of Johannesburg has to account for this.”
Ramaphosa then said “blame shifting should stop and the immediate issues affecting residents should be high up on every political party’s agenda”.
But he admonished Mashaba for not coming to the community and engaging the residents for over a week while the protests went on and gave him and his multi-party government a week’s deadline to sort out the sewage problems in the area.
He also encouraged Mashaba not to fear Alexandra residents and to take his “boots and go to the ground to see for himself what is happening under his watch”.
Ramaphosa assured residents who had packed the parking lot of the Alexandra stadium that the national government – through the department of human settlements – was in the process of “building a million houses to ease the demand for housing” and added that there were budgets for small to medium businesses earmarked for the area.
One of the organisers of the total shut down who did not attend the announcement by the president told City Press: “We are tired of these empty promises. Right now the ANC has hijacked our protest and is making it a campaign strategy to win Johannesburg back from the DA”.
“We are not interested in cheap politicking, what we want is decent housing, a functioning service delivery system and not this nonsense that the president is delivering,” he said.
“For instance he says the ANC is building one million houses yet he doesn’t say where; they could be houses in Cape Town for all we care and our community members are getting excited. All they want is votes come the May 8 elections,” he said.
Through a statement, Mashaba also condemned Ramaphosa’s engagement with the Alexandra residents.
“The difference between our multi-party government and President Ramaphosa is that we are committed to engage around plans of action and budgets. President Ramaphosa is offering the people of Alexandra more of the same broken promises and no accountability for decades of failure and corruption.”