Lesseyton project dispute

IN DISCUSSION: Ward 18 councillor Unathi Mlindazwe addressing community members during a meeting in Lesseyton Picture: ZINTLE BOBELO

A dispute in connection with a mining project to be established by a potential investor in Lesseyton ensued when residents demanded transparency.

Ward 18 councillor Unathi Mlindazwe had recently called a meeting after members of the community questioned processes and the alleged involvement of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) chief whip Nombuyiselo Ndlebe in the project.

In an interview with The Rep, Mlindazwe said he was approached by a contractor, Webber Wezelts Repossessed Asset Recovery director Luzuko Mbilase, about two years ago, who had the intention of establishing a quarry in the area.

“I have had previous engagements with Mbilase, together with the community. He requested a meeting last month after he had informed me that he was granted approval to continue with the project. I could not meet him on the proposed day to engage with residents as I had a family commitment. I then realised that he had sat with Ndlebe who later called a community meeting requesting CVs from people seeking possible employment.

Mlindazwe said it was reported that during the meeting an announcement of an established steering committee was made, adding that communication between him and the contractor had broken down. “Citizens of this ward are tired of being excluded and want to benefit from projects. I called these meetings to form steering committees in the areas so they could oversee development programmes that will benefit the community.

Resident Thembile Waxa said the community had hope of a new development project and had noted that certain individuals were now communicating with the contractor. According to protocol, a councillor is the premier of the ward. He is the one responsible for introducing such programmes to the community, but in this case things happened the other way around. Mbilase has involved people who have no role, but are normal residents of the ward like us. A community meeting was called without consulting the residents and around 50 CVs were collected.

“For this process to be fair it needs to be transparent. People are unemployed and they are using unemployment to divide the community. A ward councillor is the one who should champion development in the ward. Ndlebe was given an opportunity to lead the ward for 10 years, but now there is a new sheriff in town,” Waxa said a committee was formed on Monday during a community meeting held in the absence of Mbilase who, according to Waxa, indicated that he could not attend the meeting. “We also resolved that we are going to open a trust or an entity where project funds will be kept.”

Speaking to The Rep Mbilase, said he was granted a mining permit on July 9. “When I met the councillor to inform him about my interest in this development he introduced me to Ndlebe. I have been communicating with both of them. I recently requested a meeting and the councillor was not available. I have discovered that there are factions and I am caught in the middle. Clearly I cannot move forward because there are factions involved. I am sceptical about working in such an environment. It is a risk. Development is for the community. No one is employed yet, I have not received any CVs. We need to focus on clearing these issues,” said Mbilase.

When asked about an existing committee and her involvement in the project Ndlebe did not want to comment indicating that Mbilase only made contact with her after he could not get hold of the councillor. She further did not want to comment on questions concerning a community meeting that was called where Cvs for possible employment were collected, claiming that she had no knowledge of that.

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