5 May Mthatha march: memorandum of demands of the people of the OR Tambo region
To: Director-General of The Presidency and Secretary of Cabinet, Ms Phindile Baleni
From: The UDM leadership of the OR Tambo Region on behalf of the people who live in the OR Tambo District Municipality
Subject:MEMORANDUM OF DEMANDS OF THE PEOPLE OF THE OR TAMBO REGION
1. Today, 5 May 2021, we the people who live in the OR Tambo District Municipality have taken to the streets of Mthatha to march in solidarity, to express our dissatisfaction on various matters and to protest the conditions in which we are forced to live.
2. Upon delivery to you, the Director-General of The Presidency and Secretary of Cabinet, we request that you escalate this memorandum of demands to the entire Cabinet of the Republic of South Africa, as a claim upon their time and attention, and a call to action.
3. The OR Tambo region constitutes the largest part of the former Transkei and it proudly bears the name of struggle stalwart Oliver Reginald Kaizana Tambo – a man who fought for the liberation of our people and whose legacy should live on through the daily expression of the South African constitution i.e. a better life for all South Africans.
4. The OR Tambo region has for many years suffered a divide amongst its citizens; both political and economic. During the cursed apartheid years, South Africa used our people as a reservoir for cheap labour; it was a time during which our people were demeaned, and we were relegated to the backwaters of society.
5. When the democratic elections took place 27 years ago, the people of this region breathed a sigh of relief at the expectation that we would be part of bigger and better things to come. Yet, we seem to have clung to false hope.
6. The administration of the OR Tambo District Municipality has unfortunately been in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons e.g. the Auditor-General has cited far too many instances of non-compliance with the Public Finance Management Act, fruitless and/or wasteful expenditure and non-compliance with supply chain management regulations.
For instance, in 2020 a parliamentary oversight visit had detected a R168 million payment to a bulk water supplier, without any work having been done in exchange. The municipality had opened a criminal case at the Madeira police station in Mthatha in June 2020 (case number: 162/06/2020) of which the investigative officer has never appraised the council of any progress.
We in particular demand that your office enquire into the matter in an effort to speed up the investigation and to request the South African Police Services to step up their communication with the council.
We further demand that Cabinet ensures that the provincial government of the Eastern Cape exerts pressure on the OR Tambo District’s municipal administration and council to do their jobs properly, as this instance of maladministration and corruption, surrounding this years’ long OR Tambo water and sanitation project, is but the tip of the iceberg.
7. The people of the OR Tambo region are jobless and under economic stress. Those who travel to the metros to find employ are hard hit by the realities of the competitive job-market and are likely to land up in informal settlements, thus taxing the urban infrastructure even further. Those who have qualifications (especially tertiary qualifications) cannot find employ, relegating those who are less educated even further away from job opportunities.
We demand that Cabinet wakes up to the economic realities of the OR Tambo region and that it ensures that more resources are channelled, nationally and provincially, to stimulate the local economy so that jobs are created locally.
We demand that Cabinet wakes up to the tourist potential of the OR Tambo region, whilst realising that the infrastructure backlogs and lags (e.g. roads), cannot at the moment support any investment.
8. Where budget is concerned, the Eastern Cape seems to be government’s stepchild, with the OR Tambo District Municipality, in turn, being the stepchild of the provincial government, and our rural areas then relegated to the back of its queue.
The majority of our people still find themselves in the mud and dust of the rural hinterland, where no resources are spent.
It stands to reason that, if more resources are channelled closer to home, the economic viability of these rural areas would be stimulated and that would in turn have spin-offs, such as job creation closer to home.
We demand that Cabinet reprioritises its budgetary distribution and that more resources are focussed on the Eastern Cape, but that it earmarks resources for the OR Tambo region.
We further demand that Cabinet presses upon the Eastern Cape provincial government the importance and benefits of deploying more resources to rural areas and for the rural development in the OR Tambo region, particularly in terms of infrastructure development.
9. Most of the towns in the OR Tambo District Municipality are in dire straits where infrastructure and services are concerned; this is especially true of smaller towns. Such infrastructure and services act as a basis for the economy and quality of life of the people who live there and of those who visit from the villages to see to their material and physical needs.
Bridges are in disrepair, water leaks spring from underground pipes, sewerage spills are a daily occurrence, stormwater systems are defunct, streetlamps cast no light, and so the list goes on.
We demand that Cabinet intervenes with the local municipalities of King Sabata Dalindyebo, Port St Johns, Mhlontlo, Nyandeni and Ingquza Hill, as well as the OR Tambo District Municipality, to ensure that these basic infrastructure necessities are urgently taken care of. Not only are these deliverables in terms of the mandates of these municipalities and councils, but they are also the basic building blocks that give expression to the South African constitution of a better life for all.
10. From Mbizana in the north, to Mvezo in the south. From Port St. Johns at the coast to Maladini inland; the people of the OR Tambo region are dependent on roads for their livelihoods, to visit family and friends, to buy food and clothes, to reach hospitals and schools, and to collect their pensions.
Road travel is the main mode of transport tourists use to access the sights of the Wild Coast and the other areas in the region.
There are however so many potholes in our roads – to travel south between Viedgesville and Coffee Bay and from there on to the Hole in the Wall, and then north to Elliotdale, one risks one’s life. The R61 between Engcobo and Mthatha have yet to be completed with five long years of flimsy excuses from the South African National Roads Agency (Sanral).
We demand that Cabinet intervenes with Sanral and force it to complete the section of road on the R61 between Engcobo and Mthatha. We further demand that Cabinet intervenes with the provincial government to drastically improve our provincial roads, but also that the roads for which the OR Tambo District Municipality is responsible are attended to as a priority, because roads are the arteries the connect our people to services and necessities.
11. The people of the OR Tambo District access government services on a daily basis. Our children go to school, we access healthcare at hospitals and clinics, we report crime at police stations, we apply for identity documents and renew our drivers’ licences – to name but a few.
Yet, judging by the state of the buildings in which these basic services are housed, not the national, nor the provincial, nor the local governments take pride in, or care of, its assets.
We demand that Cabinet opens its eyes to the realities of the dilapidated state of government buildings in the district of OR Tambo and that we, as South Africans and taxpayers are co-owners of these structures.
We further demand that Cabinet owns up to its responsibility, as custodians of government property, and realise that the cleanliness and maintenance of these structures are an investment and that these building must serve future generations.
We also demand that Cabinet makes its counterparts on provincial and local levels wake up to the same responsibility at their respective levels.
12. The animals that we keep are not mere property or a measure of our wealth, but they also fulfil other needs such as food and transport. We must be enabled to properly care for our livestock e.g. have access to communal dipping tanks to rid them from disease and to have our planted fields separated from grazing areas with proper fencing.
However, one of our main concerns is to have our animals protected from theft, as it imposes economic hardship on commercial, subsistence farmers and households alike. The fact that members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) are sometimes in cahoots with stock thieves is extremely disconcerting and must stop.
We demand that Cabinet reassesses the effectiveness of the SAPS in the OR Tambo region, where stock theft is concerned, and that rotten elements in the police force are eliminated. The effectiveness of the Eastern Cape stock theft unit must also be assessed.
13. Not only is the safety of our animals an issue, but also the safety of our persons. Rural safety is especially of concern, where police stations are far from our villages and people. As much as we can work towards the “community in blue” concept, the farming community’s primary responsibility is food production and security, and not safety and security.
We are also particularly worried about the safety of our women and children, in both the urban and rural settings, where domestic abuse is rife.
We demand that Cabinet must pay more attention to the safety and security of the people of the OR Tambo region. We demand that the SAPS is well-resourced, but that they must also step up their game to ensure that criminals are effectively brought to book.
We further demand that Cabinet must spend more resources to educate our communities about domestic abuse, but also that when crimes such as child-abuse, women-abuse and rape is reported, that the perpetrators face the might of the law.
14. Whilst some South Africans bemoan load shedding, the provision of the two most basic of services, especially in the rural areas of the OR Tambo region, that of water and electricity, leaves much to be desired. In some areas there is no such delivery, and in the areas where there is, these services are unstable. The local municipalities have a habit of stopping supply with no warning and giving no explanation to the stranded communities when that occurs.
We demand that Cabinet forces the local municipalities of King Sabata Dalindyebo, Port St Johns, Mhlontlo, Nyandeni and Ingquza Hill to provide uninterrupted services, barring the need for load shedding.
We also demand that Cabinet compels the aforementioned municipalities to step up their communication with affected communities, firstly so that they may be made aware of planned power interruptions, but also so that they might be informed of the reason/s for unexpected interruptions.
We further demand, on behalf of the rest of South Africa, that Cabinet increases its pressure on Eskom to get its act together for the sake of the South African economy.
15. The streets of our towns in the OR Tambo region are filthy, informal settlements in particular suffer from the scourge of heaps of discarded rubbish, business and factory owners do not respect municipal bylaws, but the local municipalities are lax in enforcing the law, and waste management in general is poor or non-existent. Not only is litter unsightly, but discarded waste attracts vermin and poses other health risks.
We demand that Cabinet forces the local municipalities of King Sabata Dalindyebo, Port St Johns, Mhlontlo, Nyandeni and Ingquza Hill to fulfil their responsibilities to enforce municipal bylaws and also to not neglect waste management as a service delivery imperative.
16. The Umzimvubu Water Project has been in the works for decades and despite former President Jacob Zuma’s sod-turning ceremony in 2014, it has been nothing but stopping-and-starting and empty government promises of infrastructure development, drought relief, and job-creation since the beginning.
We demand that Cabinet gets its act together and definitively explains to the people of the OR Tambo Region, and in particular the closely affected communities, what are governments plans, budgets and timelines.
17. Not only does the people of the OR Tambo region suffer economic hardship on a daily basis, in part due to the region being government’s stepchild, but the Covid-19 pandemic has hit our communities particularly hard. The R350 social relief of distress (SRD) grant has been a lifeline for many households in a time of need that has not yet passed.
We therefore demand that Cabinet extends the SRD grant for at least another six months and that, by April 2022, it be converted to a basic income grant.
18. The people who live in the OR Tambo District Municipality is tired of being treated as voting fodder, to be courted before elections and to be forgotten for the five years thereafter. We have as much a right as all other South Africans to be considered when resources are spent on socioeconomic development.
We take our responsibility as citizens seriously and have participated in the democratic dispensation as is required by the constitution. We make government possible and therefore government has de facto entered into a contract with us, is accountable to us and must invest in us.
We require that Cabinet takes the demands we have made today seriously in the same spirit that we have made them.
We demand that Cabinet honours the contract that we have entered into with government, which makes it possible for the President to have appointed its members.
Presented and signed by Councillor B Gqwetha on behalf of the people who live in the OR Tambo District Municipality
Received on behalf of the Director-General of The Presidency and Secretary of Cabinet, Ms P Baleni, by Major General David Khanuga, of the South African Police Services
in Mthatha, on the 5th day of May 2021, in the Eastern Cape Province, Republic of South Africa.