For The People

Kimberley chaos – the reaction

On Thursday 12 July 2018 the capital of the Northern Cape once again came to a standstill. This time however, the aftermath was stun grenades, rubber bullets followed by vandalism and looting. Protesters and Solomon Star reporters felt the scald and irritating mucous membranes in the eyes and lungs caused by teargas canisters discharged by the police.

The ANC’s provincial headquarters reacted at night through a statement issued by its Provincial Secretary, Deshi Ngxanga. The ANC’s officials instructed the Sol Plaatje Executive Mayor, Mangaliso Matika to place the CFO (Lydia Mahloko) and the Municipal Manager (Goolam Akhawary) on voluntary leave. The two complied and are currently on leave “pending the outcome of a thorough investigation.”

In contrast to the ANC’s provincial leadership, the mayor who is also the Francis Baard Regional Chairperson indicated earlier the day that he can’t suspend the duo, because there was no evidence that will necessitate him to put the two on leave. He related this to protesters from behind the doors of the municipal offices, after which bricks were pelted at the glass doors. The mayor was whisked to safety after his address, which did not sit well with the protesters.

Social media was used as the main platform of communication, which also led to miscommunication and paranoia.  The organisers of the protest and community leaders Pantsi Obusitse and Tumelo Mosikare were served with an interdict, which prevented them from addressing a community meeting Friday afternoon. The meeting was called to put an end to the looting of tuck shops, bottle stores and other businesses in Galeshewe and other townships. It would seem that their absence was not taken well by the community meeting, because what was supposed to calm the emotions led to the opposite. The meeting refused to accept the “voluntary leave “of the CFO and Municipal Manager and instead called for their original demand to be met: Suspension or removal of the duo.

The two community leaders did manage to call for an end to the violence and looting by issuing video recordings and messages on Whatsapp and Facebook. A fake voice message was also circulated which implicated the Premier and Operation Wanya Tsotsi’s leaders as conspirators behind the whole chaos. This was vehemently denied by the Premier’s Office and members of the community’s Whatsapp group have pin-pointed an official, in the Sol Plaatje Mayor’s office (known to Solomon Star), who is the creator of the voice message.

During an interview in Carnarvon while attending the launch of the Meerkat telescope, the Premier, Ms Sylvia Lucas said that the chaos in Kimberley was very sad. She indicated that the community must at all times be taken along through consultation and regretted the destruction of infrastructure and historical buildings in the township.

The community meeting held in Galeshewe on Sunday afternoon resolved that the Mayor of Sol Plaatje must vacate his office along with Akhawary and Mahloko. The meeting further called on the community to support those arrested by converging at the Galeshewe magistrate’s court on Monday morning.

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