Cape Town – Chaos reigned as Khayelithsa was under complete lock-down due to service delivery protest in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Residents in Khayelitsha are protesting over their high water bills.
“This comes after engagements with the City regarding the residents high water bills, we heard that the City is saying that the water meters are faulty,” Khayelitsha Development Forum chairperson Ndithini Thyido said.
Thyido said that he is aware of residents water bills being as high as R10 000.
Most roads leading into and out of Khayelitsha were blocked off by protesters burning tyres and obstructing the roads. Bus services in Khayelitsha were also suspended due to the violent protests.
This has resulted in Khayelitsha being declared a no-go zone for public transport operators such as MyCiti and Golden Arrow.
"We received reports of violent protesting in an around the Khayelitsha area, with most access routes to and from Khayelitsha obstructed. Baden Powell drive closed in both directions between Swartklip Road and Oscar Mpetha," said spokesperson for Cape Town Traffic Services, Maxine Bezuidenhout.
Many children have also been unable to get to school and the local clinic has been closed.
Western Cape Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said on Facebook that the police had advised her to call off a visit to Khayelitsha.
“I insisted that Khayelitsha people are smart, they will never allow such. But SAPS said, ‘Not this time, the adults and holy people are shutting down services’," said Mbombo.
The protest was called by the Water Crisis and High Bills group chaired by Bishop Derrick Mtsolo of Litha Methodist Church in Ilitha Park. Demonstrators were asked to report to the church car park at 3am to take a stand against “exploitation by the City of Cape Town”.
“We want the City to come and address our high water bills, we don’t understand it and how can we pay for something we don’t understand?” Mtsolo said.
He said the problem started when the city installed their water meters,
“We want them to scrap our water bills and take our water meters off completely,” he said.
In February this year, protesters led by Mtsolo marched to the City council’s Khayelitsha office to demand that their water accounts be written off. They said they were “victims of inappropriate, estimated and actual high water bills".
They demanded that the council installs new meters and provides “free, clean water for senior citizens and clean water for all”.
MEC for Community Safety Alan Winde said the actions of this morning affected many innocent people including school children, those in need of medical assistance and employees. He added that the names and contact details of the organisers behind the shutdown have been sent to him by the community.
"I have passed these details on to Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant General Jula, and call on him to put every effort into their swift arrest,” Winde said he has little doubt that their motives are political – with less than a month to go until the election.
The City’s Mayco Member for Water and Waste services Xanthea Limberg said some of the complaints from residents and the community were in a memorandum they handed over earlier "and we responded in writing formally".
"We also had a meeting with them face to face for hours with the leadership and Mayor Plato and we established to have another community engagement so that more residents can come forward with their water bills because we have not been able to ascertain the exact amounts. We then decided to visit the area next week on Tuesday."
She was unaware of the protest because according to her she discussed the details of the meeting for Tuesday in a telephone conversation with the residents.