EASTERN Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet has blasted protesters who have gone on the rampage in Nelson Mandela Bay in recent weeks, saying communities opted to take to the streets rather than follow government protocol to get services.
Breaking her silence on the riots – mostly in Walmer township – which have gripped Port Elizabeth in the last month, Kiviet said she did not understand why, with all the available platforms, people chose to protest without having tried other ways to get help.
Her address to senior government officials last night came as Walmer community leaders held a meeting to convince angry residents not to protest at places the premier would be visiting today.
Kiviet’s briefing also comes barely a week after President Jacob Zuma told delegates at the ANC policy conference in Johannesburg that the party needed to accelerate the speed of delivery to poor communities, which were increasingly agitated by South Africa’s inequality.
Addressing the guests at the City Hall ahead of the Inter-governmental Relations (IGR) Forum launch last night, Kiviet said protesters’ disruptive behaviour was a slap in the face of ongoing service delivery programmes.
"I don’t understand why anyone in this day and age of our democracy – with many legitimate platforms to raise issues – would take to the streets to be heard, because they voted for political representatives at different levels of government.
"We can’t resort to anarchy.”
Kiviet, who is in the Bay for an executive committee outreach programme, said there would be action on feedback received from teams dispatched by her office and that of mayor Zanoxolo Wayile yesterday to "the various hotspots” around the city.
This came after Walmer township residents went on the rampage on Tuesday, attacking and looting shops owned by Somalis.
The protest action followed last month’s violent service delivery protests when residents, demanding housing, sanitation and electricity, gave the municipality until this week to come back to them with a detailed action plan.
"The people of the province, including those in the hotspots, need to know it won’t help to add fuel to the fire,” Kiviet said. "We understand people are frustrated, but let us not add to the damage and worsen development by being destructive.”
In the speech she prepared for the launch of the municipality’s "long overdue” Inter-governmental Relations (IGR) Forum – delivered by Health MEC Sicelo Gqobana as she had another commitment – Kiviet highlighted blame-shifting between the three spheres of government as an obstacle to service delivery.
"Sometimes we respond in a manner that shifts responsibility among the various spheres of government, [and spend too little time] finding lasting solutions to our challenges,” she said.
"There is also a growing realisation that the success or failure of the implementation of the government’s service delivery programmes depends largely on the level and quality of inter-governmental cooperation among the three spheres of government. We have without doubt seen the effects of the blame game, finger pointing and competitive urges that have characterised our inter-governmental relations. These have in many instances resulted in our people losing hope and confidence in our ability to lead them.”
She said it was time the Eastern Cape returned to its previous reputation of producing world-class leaders as opposed to the current one of being "a bunch of thugs” with a government riddled with corruption.
Kiviet, whose visit to the city ends today, is accompanied by Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, Human Settlements MEC Helen Sauls-August, Economic Development MEC Mcebisi Jonas and Gqobana. She will visit the Chris Hani, Ramaphosa and Joe Modise settlements this morning to listen to residents’ concerns about service delivery and look at ways to address them.