“Mashaba we need answers now,” read the makeshift placard held up by an Alexandra township resident. The Marlboro Community Centre was teeming with angry Alexandra township residents on Tuesday evening, awaiting a meeting with Johannesburg City Mayor Herman Mashaba. The meeting eventually descended into chaos.
The historic township has been a site of protest for the past couple of weeks with residents protesting various issues including service delivery, housing, the erection of illegal structures, overcrowding.
Mashaba was supposed to meet with the community last week, but said he would meet with them on April 15 instead. Residents then demanded to meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa, who visited them on Thursday, April 11. Ramaphosa promised residents where he had formed an inter-governmental team to meet Mashaba and solve service delivery challenges in the township.
The mayor finally held on April 15 in Marlboro Gardens, a small suburb on the outskirts of Alex, as part of an integrated development plan (IDP).
Alex residents were not happy with the decision to hold the meeting in Marlboro, #AlexTotalShutdown organiser Thandiwe Mthombeni said in an interview with The Daily Vox.
“We have been having issues in Alexandra and we’ve been asking him to come many times. We even went as far as marching to Sandton to make things easy, but he didn’t budge. Yet he has the audacity to come to Marlboro expecting to address us instead of doing the IDP,” Mthombeni said.
There was a huge security presence at the community centre ahead of Mashaba’s impending arrival.
Mthombeni said she found the security presence “amazing” and “overrated”. “He’s using the state resources for his personal things. Right now, I’m sure the thugs are doing something somewhere but all types of police are here. Part of service delivery is for them to serve the community but they’re here,” she said.
Alex residents were hoping to finally present their memorandum of demands to Mashaba. “We want to say to Mashaba: ‘Alex needs you and we need solutions for tomorrow’. We never did violence, we don’t want to disturb. We are just saying, ‘receive our memorandum and we’ll take it from there’,” Mthombeni said.
Meeting cancelled after disruptions
Loud jeering and booing accompanied Mashaba when he finally took the stage after 6pm. The only moment of order came when the #AlexTotalShutdown organisers handed over the memorandum to Mashaba. Speaker of council Vasco da Gama eventually canceled the meeting at around 7.15pm.
The DA blamed the ANC for instigating the disruption in a statement issued shortly after. Spokesperson Solly Malatsi said the disruption were planned by the ANC.
“Mayor Mashaba went to Alexandra to address the concerns of the community but was prevented from doing so when the meeting was hijacked by several rogue elements in the hall – no doubt sponsored by the failing ANC,” Malatsi said.
According to the statement, there was no genuine attempt to allow Mashaba to engage with the residents. “They do not care about the grievances of the people of Alexandra, they only care about the narrow electoral prospects,” Malatsi said.
Malatsi said the Mashaba and the DA-led coalition would still work to implement plans “to bring about real change to the people of Alex and Johannesburg.”