Enraged Isiqalo informal settlement residents barricaded Jakes Gerwel Drive last Wednesday with burning rubbish, stones and trees, demanding that a cleaning sub-contractor company owner call a meeting with them about hiring in the area.
Police had to intervene and disperse the crowd with rubber bullets while the road was closed. Motorists were ordered to take alternative routes.
Three residents, aged 23, 27 and 28, were arrested on charges of public violence.
Provincial police spokesman Captain FC Van Wyk said the three suspects had appeared in the Athlone Magistrate’s Court on Thursday June 2.
“The case docket is still at court, but bail of R500 was set for each of the accused by the court,” said Captain Van Wyk.
Residents threatened to intensify protests until the sub-contractor, Nokwindla Yidlani Trading and Project Company, came to them.
“This is the beginning, there is more still to come. The police won’t sleep here. As soon as they (police) leave we will start again till Lwandiso (the manager of Nokwindla Yidlani Trading and Project Company) comes and talk to us,” said one of the residents who only gave her name as Cindy.
She said they wanted clarity on how the sub-contractor hired cleaners in the area.
“What we want is simple – we want him (Lwandiso Yidlani) to come to us and tell us what criteria he used when he hired cleaners. He requested 30 people for cleaners but only hired 15 of them and others said they failed the interview. We found out that some who got the job didn’t write a test, but filled out a form only,” said Cindy, adding that they want ed another service provider.
Another resident, who only identified himself as Mzala, threatened to discard portable toilets on the road.
“The City must talk to Lwandiso to come to us before they regret it. The City undermines us. Initially, the City gave us portable toilets, and now they said we can’t speak to Lwandiso. If we want him, we must get permission from them. That is nonsense. Now we will take these portable toilets and throw them on the road,” he shouted.
He said he would not vote in the coming local government elections.
“No service delivery, no vote. The Democratic Alliance forgets that it’s ruling this province because of our votes. Without us, they cannot win this province,” he said.
Mzala said all political organisations were the same. “When they are campaigning, they talk nicely, but after elections they don’t come or implement their promises. I won’t vote again because it is clear that I’m nothing to them. Instead, they want to manipulate us and pretend as if they love us. Some of them come with food parcels and after that you don’t see them again.”
When the Plainsman arrived on the scene last Wednesday, residents were running away from the police’s rubber bullets.
Community committee chairperson, Sakhumzi Kakaza, said they wanted a meeting with Mr Yindlani to clarify how his company had hired cleaners in the area.
“We don’t want Lwandiso. Two weeks back they asked 30 names for people who are going to work as cleaners in the area for a three-month contract. Out of that 30 people, he only hired 15 of them and told others that they failed the interview. So, we phoned him requesting a meeting with him, wanting to clarify why he didn’t hire other people.
“Instead of coming to us, he told us to ask permission from the City’s solid waste department, which we fail to understand why. We phoned him several times he didn’t want to that is why we resorted to the street,” said Mr Kakaza. He emphasised that all they wanted was for the residents to be employed.
Mr Yidlani rubbished the accusations and described them as “fallacy”.
“When I was hired on last year August, we had a meeting with community leaders and officials from the solid waste department. They (community leaders) were told if they want to talk to me they must go via the sold waste department. That was our agreement and they agreed. And this is what I kept on telling them when they phone me asking for a meeting. I never refused to talk to them,” he said.
Mr Yidlani lambasted community leaders for misleading the community and failing to follow the City’s protocols.
“According to the City rules, if you want a certain number of people to hire you multiply that number so that you can select the best out of them. There was nothing wrong with our selection. We wanted 15 people, but we doubled the number of people so that we could select the best out of them. If the community leaders went to solid waste they would hear about that,” he said.
Ernest Sonnenberg, the City’s mayoral committee member for utility services, confirmed that if the residents wanted to communicate with Mr Yidlani they should go through solid waste.
“The contractor is accountable to the City’s solid waste management department. If residents have any grievances with contractors, these must be raised directly with the City officials,” he said.
However, Mr Sonnenberg stated that the department had no first-hand account of last week’s incident as yet.
“It is alleged that the protest is about employment opportunities from the contractor, but the residents did not consult the City about their complaints before protesting,” he said.