Residents run amok
Block road, burn tyres as community, councillor clash over municipal road project
The Seven Days community in Bochabela in Bloemfontein was this week plunged into disarray after a group of militant residents went on a rampage accusing the local councillor of overlooking them in employment opportunities on a multi-million rand road paving project.
The community was left at sixes and sevens as some residents supported the councillor, Khosi Mogapi, while others felt she had treated them unfairly by favouring outsiders at their expense.
The disgruntled group took to the street on Sunday and Wednesday and blocked Fort Hare Road with rocks and burnt tyres to vent their anger at Mogapi.
The municipal project which is expected to take eight months to complete was scheduled to kick-off in January this year but only holes were dug before it was shelved, reportedly due to disruptions by picketing residents.
However, no injuries occurred during this week’s demonstrations. Also, no arrests have been made.
An agitated community member, Serame Ntiko alleged the councillor had employed people from other places at the expense of those in Seven Days.
“Why does she bring people to work in our community while we are readily available for the job? We are not going to allow it!” he charged.
However, others such as Kelebogile Mohloiwa came to Mogapi’s defense, stating that the councillor had in previous meetings with residents clearly explained that while the contractor would come with his own people, a certain percentage of jobs would go to Ward 3.
Mohloiwa said those who knew they do not qualify for the jobs were behind the nepotism and corruption claims in a bid to frustrate the whole project.
She added that several community meetings had been called by Mogapi where criteria for employment were to be discussed but these were disrupted by the same people.
“It makes no sense to disrupt the very same meeting where you are supposed to get correct information simply because your company did not make the cut,” Mohloiwa noted.
Mohloiwa added that the disruptions appeared to have been aimed at discrediting the youthful councillor, whose effort to bring services to ward 3 – which includes Dark City, Silver City, Phola Park, Kagisho Square, Seven Days and Thabo Mbeki – continued to be undermined.
Another resident, Peter Ntebe, also from Seven Days said it was unacceptable for people outside their ward to be employed in the project, saying “it is in our area and 80% of workers should be ours.”
But in response to the allegations, a tough-talking Councillor Mogapi said she would not allow the ward to be divided by people whose personal interests supersede those of the community.
Mogapi yesterday eventually smoked the peace pipe with the residents when she addressed the community at Dark City in a meeting aimed at ironing out their differences.
“Just because a project is in Dark City does not mean 100 percent of employment must come from that ward,” she pointed out.
The fiery councillor continued, “The people of surrounding townships that falls under Ward 3 must also take part in the project, particularly those from struggling families.
“What these so-called protestors from Seven Days want us to do will not work; in-fact it will divide the ward and that is something that I won’t tolerate.”
The councillor blasted protestors, accusing them of being misled by those with vested interests in the project, saying “just because your company has not been appointed, you don’t have the right to peddle lies about the project and its transparency.”
Mogapi said those hell bent on disrupting any service delivery projects in the ward should be arrested, and went on to accuse police of not doing their work.
“We can’t have a situation where people continue to disrupt service delivery and they are not brought to book. Police should not babysit disrupters but rather act accordingly,” she added.
Mapaseka Mojafe, another Seven Days resident said the disruption of meetings prevented proper communication from reaching the public, citing this as a strategy employed by the protesting group to halt services from being delivered to Ward 3.
Mogapi said since some unruly residents were disrupting community meetings, they would now resort to door-to-door campaigns with the assistance of police.
“We are not going to be prevented from doing our work. We are going to do door-to-door campaigns and continue to employ people with necessary experience and knowledge to work in this project,” she told yesterday’s meeting.