Acting Premier Speech: PROTESTS IN JOHN TAOLO GAETSEWE DISTRICT

MEDIA STATEMENT

BY THE ACTING PREMIER OF THE NORTHERN CAPE, MS G. CJIEKELLA

PROTESTS IN JOHN TAOLO GAETSEWE DISTRICT

30 AUGUST 2012

Background

The Northern Cape has over the past few weeks fallen victim to a number of protests by community members under the guise of service delivery protests. Since these protests have started, Government has conducted visits to the affected areas to get to the root cause of these often illegal protests. The visits have revealed a number of complexities in the grievances that are being raised by the communities.

As the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape we are clear that we respect citizens’ rights to raise grievances and to protest peacefully as enshrined in the Constitution but violent protests that threaten lives and wreak havoc and destruction is unacceptable and cannot be tolerated.

We are duty bound to ensure the safety of our people and to safeguard their belongings and that of the State and other agencies and institutions. In my capacity as the Acting Premier of this Province I want to make it unequivocally clear that we will not stand back and allow a few disgruntled and rogue elements to run the Region of John Taolo Gaetsewe to the ground.

This region has been marred by service delivery protests since May this year. Unrest first broke out in Olifantshoek where certain members of the community are demanding the resignation of the Mayor of the Gamagara Municipality. These protests impacted negatively on one high school and two primary schools with a total learner population of 2 583 learners.

After Olifantshoek, protest actions spread to other areas in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, specifically the Joe Morolong Municipality. Schools around Cassel, Bothitong, Loopeng, Tsineng and Laxey were also disrupted although this varied from school to school and village to village. The main reasons for the protests in these areas are the demands for access roads.

High levels of intimidation made it difficult for the department to intervene successfully in some areas. This led to all three schools in Olifantshoek not writing June examinations. In the Joe Morolong municipal area; schools were affected differently. Some of the schools wrote some of the papers and some wrote back –up papers.

After re-opening of schools for this term, there was normal schooling until disruptions started again in July.

Immediately when the protests started, a delegation of MECs was sent in to assess the situation. Several meetings were held with the mayors, community liaison officers, community leaders and various ward councillors. The delegation also listened to the communities’ unhappiness and their concerns and received a memorandum of demands.

Certain people in communities are saying that services are not delivered to their communities. This is really not true. In fact the region of John Taolo Gaetsewe has over the past years received preferential treatment in so far as service delivery is concerned.

Given the complexity of grievances raised in the municipal area of Joe Morolong various interventions have to date been undertaken. Since inclusion of some of the areas from Northwest to the Northern Cape a number of major projects and interventions have been implemented.

The road referred to in the communities Memorandum of Demand is the MR950. This road starts at a junction which is located 40 km east of Kuruman on the N14 to Vryburg and continues in a northerly direction towards the Northern Cape provincial border. This road provides access to Ganyesa in the North West Province.

The total length of the road requested by the community for upgrading is 135 km and only the first 5km has been tarred.

This road has been given priority status to be upgraded to a tar/sealed road. The North West Provincial government initiated the first phase of the project, from the N14 to Colston (5km) prior to 2004. The first 30km of the road was reportedly designed by the North West Provincial Department of Roads.

The other road makes reference to the MR 975 that links Laxey in the west with Glenred and Cassel in the east of the JTG district.

The road from Laxey to Ditsipeng is 70km long. It joins the Churchill Bendel Road where the DR 3450 links Ditshipeng to Glenred 15 km later. The total distance of the route referred to in the memorandum and requested to be upgraded is 146 km.

The road alignment runs next to the Moshaweng River and is not suitable for upgrading on the current alignment. The required stormwater structures on this route would further contribute to a disproportionately high construction costs. This route has not previously been earmarked for upgrading and designs on the applicable roads are available. There are also no traffic counts for this route to determine the volume of transport on this route.

During July last year the Department of Roads and Public Works took over the roads function from the five district municipalities in the province, simultaneously inheriting the backlog on these roads. The department of Roads and Public Works have various projects running within the Kuruman/JTG district.

Earlier this year during February, Premier Hazel Jenkins launched the upgrading of the Hotazel Kuruman Road. Over the past 5 years the Department of Roads and Public Works has completed in the JTG Region the following projects:

  • Mothibistad to T-junction of D3031
  • Hotazel to Vanzylsrus road (53 km )
  • The Ncweng to Tsineng Road
  • Base & Surface repair of the Mothibistad – Maphinik
  • Base & Surface repair of the N14 – Dithakong
  • Shoulder repair of the Hotazel - Kuruman TR0505
  • Asbestos Roads
  • Churchill to Bendel road (44km)
  • Re-gravel of the Dithakong road (25km) - Van Zyl Rust to Middelputs
  • Re-gravelling of the Laxey road to Padstow

All of this has been done at a cost in excess of R500 million. Work however has drawn to a halt due to the protests on these roads. The road worker-teams are afraid to do their daily job; due to intimidations; and allegations from the community or villagers of burning the properties of government. The maintenance of roads has dropped; and road workers are in the offices most of the time. We need members of the community to stop with these protests for roadwork’s to continue on the other existing roads. it is therefore mindboggling that statements are made of non delivery of services when in fact officials are prevented from doing so by the very communities or members in communities with ulterior motives.

The department is engaging various stakeholders such as the National Department of Public Works, National Department of Transport, Mining Houses, Provincial Treasury, National Treasury, and John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality

and Joe Morolong Municipality to obtain the necessary funds for the upgrading of the major roads mentioned in the memorandum of grievances by the community.

The availability of the funds for the project will have a direct impact on the implementation date of this project. It needs to be mentioned that the estimated cost for this upgrading is in the region of R1.6 Billion.



Projects by Provincial Government in John Taolo Gaetsiwe

We are currently faced with a situation where protesters have now gone as far as destroying infrastructure of Government and business in the area. This is very the same group of people who claim that Government is doing nothing to resolve their grievances and that Government is not delivering in their area.

I mentioned earlier that the grievances are very complex in nature and that is way no solution has been reached thus far. Allow me to do a brief synopsis of Government service delivery in that area to date.

According to the 2001 Census, there was a total of 176 909 people in the John Taolo Gaetsewe District, which include Kuruman, Kathu, Bothitong,Dingleton, Churchill, Manyeding, Laxey, Bathlaros, Mothibistad, Hotazel and Heuningvlei.

The Snap survey for 2007 also indicated that 60 143 learners out of a provincial total of 265 193, which translates into 22.6% of the learner population in the Province is concentrated in the JTG Region.

Added to this, 24 137 of the population had no schooling, 2 421 had some primary schooling and 4 771 had higher education.

Inadequate transport from learners’ homes’ to schools further hindered access to education in this deep rural area. Large numbers of children, some as young as 8 years old, had to cover distances of 30 km on foot to get to school each day. Since inception to the Northern Cape we are providing learner transport for learners who live more than 3.5 km from the school. Currently there are 63 bus routes covering 4 965 learners bringing the amount spent on learner transport in that area to R 27.5 Million.

Due to the impoverished nature of the district, access to schooling was increased through the food nutrition programme, which was extended to high schools.

Currently we have 175 Public Schools, staffed with 2203 educators catering for 66 844 learners in the JTG area alone. To date during 2010, 2011 and 2012 the amounts of R 193 559, R 93 003 and R 44 420 millions were spent respectively. This included building of new schools, a special school and a special needs hostel. It also catered for renovations of new classrooms, ECD classrooms and specialist rooms for the gateway subjects.

Housing delivery and the provision of services such as water, sanitation and electricity also received priority since inception to the Northern Cape. it should also be borne in mind that the Province inherited massive housing backlogs and ailing or non- existent infrastructure.

Since 2008 to date the Department of Co-Operative Governance and Human Settlements has constructed in excess of 1000 houses and rectified and completed approximately 2 440 houses inherited from the North West Government at a total cost of R 44.5 Million in JTG. With these projects having been completed and further plans for housing development in the Region a great number of jobs were created benefitting the very same disgruntled communities directly.

Health services are another area of priority in the Region. In order to increase accessibility and improve the quality of Health care service delivery and as a means of contributing to the Millennium Development goals in the district; the Department of Health currently has three clinics in the tender evaluation, planning and procurement and construction stages in the Gaegonyana and Joe Morolong areas. These are Deurham Clinic, Kagung Clinic and Heuningvlei clinic.

The Department have also entered into a partnership with the JTG Developmental Trust for the procurement of medical equipment for Hospitals, CHCs and clinics. The total value cost of these projects exceeds R 30 million. A number of clinics in Kagisho, Kamden, Tsineng, Bendel, Loopeng, Gadiboe and Olifantshoek are currently also being refurbished at a total project cost of approximately R 10 million.

Renovations at the Tswaragano Hospital have begun and the X-ray unit at the Olifantshoek hospital has been completed with a state of the art X-ray machine installed. Nine mobile units have been deployed in that area which provides services ranging from Eye testing and cataract surgery, dental care and surgery and minor operations.

A new clinic for Bankara Bodhulong and a new hospital for Kuruman, which would allow for a higher level of care and reduction of referrals to Kimberley, are in the planning stages.

Construction for a new library in Churchill will commence with the contractor having been appointed this week and is due to take to site in 21 days. Construction of a community library at Shesheng is also underway. As part of the Fifa World Cup legacy an amount of R7 million has been transferred to the The JTG District Municipality for an artificial pitch in Van Zylsrus.

It should be borne in mind that with these infrastructure projects come the creation of much-needed job opportunities which are run under the EPWP and poverty alleviation projects. Poverty alleviation projects planned for this area also include the eradication of alien vegetation in Lexy to create 200 work opportunities at a rand value of R3.8 million.

Similarly other Provincial Government Departments have also delivered critically needed developmental projects and in so doing also creating further jobs and work opportunities. Under the banner of EPWP, the Department of Environment and Nature Conservation has created 71 job opportunities in this financial year through the construction of the JTG District Regional office. Through the intake of Environmental interns and learners, capacity is being built and skills transferred to the youth of that area.

The Department of Safety and Liaison continues to work tirelessly with structures comprising the SAPS, Traditional Leaders, and Councillors as well as other community structures to gain buy-in and educate communities on anti-alcohol abuse, the rescue of public spaces and the prevention of violence against women and children as means of restoring the social fabric of those communities and creating safer communities.

The construction of the Social Development Sub-Office situated in Dithakong Village is nearing completion and would be operational before the end of the year. Services that are being rendered by the Department include the Balelapa Youth Internship programme, Skills development through the National Youth Service Programme, Emergency interventions by DSD as part of its social assistance programme and services to those who are unable to sustain themselves. These include food parcels, blankets, school uniforms, etc. DSD funds and supports 15 Soup Kitchens, 4 Drop-in Centres (DICs) and 4 sustainable livelihood projects created through DSD social investment in the district.

Since 2009 to date, the Department through their intervention programmes such as providing stock water, fencing, land care to electrifying 200 houses with solar energy have created numerous jobs and spent in total of R 69 million.

Through the Integrated Economic Development Services such as Enterprise development and establishing of Co-operatives; Trade and Sector Development and ICT iniatives, the Department of Economic Development and Tourism is contributing extensively to Local Economic Development. To date funding iniatives by the Department has led to the establishment of the Sekolo Trading Store, the Simolong bakery, Van Zylsrus wood Co-operative and the John Taolo Wireless Mess.

The aim of the latter is to provide connectivity to all the schools in the JTG District, Government Departments as well as provide citizens and businesses access to information and internet as a catalyst for stimulating socio-economic development. This will be provided via wireless mess which will enable schools to render better schooling and small community based enterprise that is enabled by ICT. The rollout of these projects has seen a total budget spend in excess of R 20 million.

You might ask yourself why I have chosen to give you this background of service delivery to date in the JTG District but I started out saying that these protests are taking place under the GUISE of service delivery protests. Against this backdrop and account of service delivery; not even including the bulk of services; and considering that various Political and Administrative teams have met with the leadership and communities of the protest ridden areas in order to restore calm, it baffles the mind that no amicable solution has yet been reached.

By no means are we saying that we do not have any service delivery challenges in those areas but we have on numerous occasions also made it clear to the community members that the budget for the access roads that they are demanding is not available currently in our Provincial coffers and that we are in the process of engaging other stakeholders at national level and the mines in the surrounding areas to work towards a joint funding initiative.

As political leadership; we are aware that these protests have underlying political tones and we will expose the culprits who are the instigators of this lawlessness. Our appeal to the communities in the affected areas is not to allow yourselves and the future of your children to be jeopardised by people who claim to have your wellbeing at heart.

No person can have an honest intention or interest in your life by destroying children’s right to enjoy an education.

I also wish to make it very clear that we will not allow the destruction of Government or any other property to go unpunished. The people responsible for this will face the full might of the law. Common criminality under the pretence of service delivery protest will not be tolerated. The Constitution of the Republic makes provision for people to air their grievances and to protest. This is a right that we as Government acknowledge and respects- but this must be done in a responsible manner and within the legal boundaries provided for. It is indeed a shame that children and older people are used and their lives and future put in jeopardy by ill-disciplined and disgruntles individuals. Inciting violence and depriving children from getting quality education provided by this Administration is criminal and we condemn this in the strongest possible terms.

Interventions

An interdepartmental task team has been established to work towards a speedy resolution to the crisis in that area and return the lives of the community to normal. Grade 12 learners from these hotspots have been removed and set up in camps to prepare them for the September Preliminary Examinations and the National Senior certificate commencing in October 2012.

Grade 12 learners from Bothitong and Ikakanyeng High Schools attended classes without interruptions and has also joined the Deo Gloria Camp.

Six schools in the JTG District attended the Winter classes during July this year. To negate the curriculum coverage backlog, successful Saturday and afternoon classes were conducted until intimidation and threats increased

A camp has been set up at Deo Gloria, Barkley West and the first group of learners arrived on Sunday, 12 August 2012 and learner attendance is currently at 93% The objective of the camp is to intensify teaching and prepare learners for the preliminary exams in September.

We are also working closely with the Department of Basic Education to address the challenges that the learners are currently experiencing.

As the Provincial Government of the Northern Cape; we wish to assure our communities that all is not lost and we will work tirelessly toward a solution. My plea still is and I cannot emphasise it enough, please just allow our learners to return to school and secure a future for them.

In conclusion my humble appeal goes out to the communities to refrain from intimidation, destruction of property and to allow our children and educators to return to school. We also appeal for calm and normality to return and for the communities to work with government to find a peaceful and lasting solution for the benefit and growth of the region.

I thank you.

Released by the Office of the Premier, Northern Cape Provincial Government

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