By Bev Mortimer:
About 300 residents of Ocean View and Jeffreys Bay marched to Kouga Municipality this morning (19 September 2012).
This follows a march of about 350 St Francis and Jeffreys Bay residents to the municipal officers on 12 September 2012 who voiced their dissatisfaction over limited service delivery in their areas.
Today’s march, organised by the Jeffreys Bay branch of the South African Communist Party (SACP) was considered highly successful by Paul Hjul of the Jeffreys Bay Ratepayers Association (JBRA) .
The marchers, many of whom wore red T-shirts with the letters ‘SACP’ on the them and bearing placards that ran down councillors and poor services, assembled at the municipal gates and were addressed by various speakers who addressed the crowd.
According to Hjul, the march was well organised and peaceful and a memorandum on the failure of the municipality to deliver basic services was handed over to municipal officials. Kouga’s mayor, Booi Koerat, was not able to address the crowd this morning as he was out of town.
Hjul said the main grievances include the bucket system and controversy over some land earmarked for RDP houses having been allegedly alienated for the building of a private school, plus allegations that money earmarked for spending in Ocean View had been allocated elsewhere.
Hjul also announced today that an even bigger march of 2000 marchers is being planned for 3 October 2012. “This will be a huge multiracial, non partisan crowd,” he said.
Questioned by St Francis Chronicle on the huge numbers predicted by him, Hjul replied that many residents who could not attend last week’s march nor today’s have indicated they will all join together to march against poor service delivery and other issues.
Hjul sent a press release before the march this morning that said the march is protected in terms of the Regulation of Gatherings Act and was organised in accordance with the law.
“The residents of Jeffrey’s Bay have been invited to stand in solidarity with the residents of Ocean View tomorrow. I believe we should support this initiative from the perspective of the right of a community to protest and from the perspective that it is generally the poor who suffer the most from municipal non-delivery and malfeasance,” Hjul maintained.
A spokes person for the municipality commented after the march: “We have received the list of grievances, many of which are based on rumour and misinformation. To address this Council will be engaging with the community so that residents are fully informed and empowered.”
Turning to last week’s march organised largely by the St Francis Bay Residents’ Association (SFBRA) and Fekrra, he said he was amazed at the turnout at last week’s march. He believes it was one of the most successful instances of a community engaging forcefully with government in South Africa.
“I am proud and believe that every resident of Jeffrey’s Bay should be proud of what we demonstrated can be accomplished by a community. It is unfortunate that my application to the High Court was not heard by 11 am in order to ensure the wrongful exclusion of people from public space could be set aside.
“However, it remains before the court. I will be in the Grahamstown High Court on 27 September for a hearing on the original application to secure a setting aside of the purported prohibition against entering the courtyard. Plus relief is sought on the prohibition.
“If I secure the sought Order it will be entirely impractical for the Kouga municipality to attempt to keep the people of Kouga from demonstrating in the courtyard when they follow the legislated procedures and maintain a peaceful demonstration,” Hjul said.
Hjul advised that the march on 3 October 2012, to be organised by the JBRA and Fekrra, marchers intend to enter the courtyard in an orderly fashion.
Commenting further on last week’s march Hjul said: “The mayor described us as affluent people and while this may have been a simple pronunciation error I think it should be treated as Freudian slip.” He added that one of their principle complaints is Kouga’s charging of poor residents for using the ‘bucket system’.
Hjul also criticised the mayor as saying residents owed the municipality millions in rates. Hjul claims Kouga is in a bad state of financial management.
Hjul also reveals the ANC Youth League lodged an accusation that the protest action last week was orchestrated by the Democratic Alliance (DA) , Hjul categorically denied this.
In conclusion Hjul thanked all the law enforcement officers for traffic control etc and thanked the St Francis Bay Residents’ Association (SFBRA) for taking the initiative in calling and largely organising the protest last week.
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