Sickly and sleepy, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality mayor, Luleka Gubula had to drive back to town at 11.30pm to placate angry residents who threatened to burn down the budget and treasury building on Monday night.
“I apologise that a problem that could have been avoided has come to this,” said the mayor to the incensed crowd.
The residents from the Van area had gathered in front of the building, threatening to burn it again after some houses in the area had not had electricity since Friday.
The march had moved from Orange Road in Komani Park where cables connecting the area blew earlier on Monday.
The Rep arrived at Komani Park after 8pm, where there was a police presence and residents were gathered around Enoch Mgijima technical officer, Madoda Matola.
Matola tried to explain to the residents that the cables would not be fixed because parts needed had to be obtained from East London and could only get to Komani on Tuesday.
“We have tolerated these electricity issues enough. If they cannot make proper arrangements, let them give it to us. If the electricity is not back tonight that municipality will not stand tomorrow,” said Josh Goss, a Van area committee member.
“My heart was heavy because I had spent a lot of money on food for my family. It went off, the smell is horrible and there are flies all over. This is uncalled for,” said Sibaza Vuntu.
Another resident had brought insulin for his diabetes and asked Madoda where he should store it as it required refrigeration.
Madoda eventually gave the residents the number of the municipal manager, Nokuthula Mgijima, who, after a lengthy call refused to go and address the crowd.
The people, estimated to be around 100, then moved on to the budget and treasury building after 9pm where they started piling tyres in front of the building.
Police quickly moved to the scene where warrant officer Mzikisi Mdleni warned that police would be forced to intervene.
Speaker of the Enoch Mgijima Municipality, Bongiwe van Heerden, arrived after 10pm to try to reason with the people and asked them to wait until the next day.
The incensed protestors refused to leave, saying: “When the municipality wanted payment for accounts in arrears they wanted the money now, so we want electricity now.”
“We are past negotiation. We will make an example of this building like they did in Stutterheim,” said Goss.
The speaker did, however, hand over the numbers of the supplier to the residents who called the supplier and found out that parts needed were available, but the municipality had not gone pick them up.
After the long night the mayor promised that the spares would arrive on Tuesday and that in future any engagements with people of the area would be between the mayor and the Van committee.
“The speaker informed me of what happened. I was assured that the material was on the way. The material arrived but it was unfortunate that another cable blew,” said Gubula.
The crowd accepted the mayor’s assurances and dispersed. “It is unfortunate that we have to bring tyres to the municipality before we get a response. Even though we had requested the mayor to come at 8pm the officials at the site did not contact the mayor. When the speaker and the manager in the office of the mayor arrived they called the mayor and she arrived within 15 minutes. I think we should give her credit for that,” said Goss.