Africa-Press – South-Africa. Ekurhuleni Mayor Tania Campbell has acceded to the demands of Tembisa residents who took to the streets in protest due to what they believe are the City’s anti-poor policies.
Campbell arrived at the Tembisa Stadium, where about 100 residents awaited her arrival, accompanied by armed police officers driving Nyalas.
The Ekurhuleni customer care centre, where essential services for the City were rendered, remains gutted along with several vehicles.
The bulk of the residents’ complaints focused on electricity, rates and taxes.
Four dead, municipal building set alight as Tembisa rocked by protests
Residents also demanded the indigent policy be broadened to include other households who cannot afford to pay for services.
The community complained about the end of the City’s free basic electricity package issued to residents each month.
On Friday, Campbell said her late arrival to meet the residents was because she wanted to devise an action plan and not pay lip service to their demands.
She added the suburb had restored electricity after a substation was vandalised during the protest.
Campbell said the City has resolved to separate the billing system, which would no longer combine rates, taxes and electricity.
Residents complained their electricity would be disconnected if they did not pay for one of these services.
The separation would ensure this does not happen.
“We will ensure that the bills of water, sanitation and rates and taxes are separated from the electricity bill. The indigent policy will be reviewed and ensure all those who can be assisted can benefit,” Campbell said to loud applause and cheers from residents gathered at the stadium.
The City would not embark on disconnecting those in debt for the next 90 days.
Its indigent scheme would also be altered through legislation at the council.
The threshold for qualifying disadvantaged families would be increased, the mayor said.
The only promise Campbell could not assure residents about was the free electricity matter.
The City provides residents with 53 units of free electricity. The other 100 units were recently removed from its social scheme because of funding from National Treasury.
Campbell said the City would ask the national and provincial governments for more funding for the scheme.
Residents were generally pleased with the mayor’s short speech.
Most left the meeting feeling hopeful and willing to give the City time.
Tembisa protest: Damage caused by protesting residents estimated to be millions of rands
Xolani Mnisi from the Tembisa Community Forum said protests were unlikely to flare up soon because residents were happy with the mayor’s message.
“She did say some of the things she promised will take time, such as the issue of indigent that means changing policy. Most of the things she said, we are happy about it. They are willing to review some of their policies, so they become pro-poor.
“From our position, we cannot say we are thrilled, but we are happy about some of their decisions. One of these is separating electricity from rates, which means if someone does not pay their rates, they will not cut off their access to electricity. It is a step in the right direction,” Mnisi added.
Campbell could not provide a figure for the damages caused by the protests but she said it was estimated at millions.
She said residents should look at the destruction and realise every cent spent fixing what was destroyed could have been used for service delivery.