Matatiele protestors close town

SENIOR officials from Matatiele Local Municipality and political leaders held several meetings last Friday and on Monday this week to address the terrible condition of the roads in the town.

The meetings were organised after taxi and bus owners and community members shut down Matatiele town last week, demanding that MEC of Transport, Weziwe Tikana, address the issue of the deteriorating roads.

The protestors said they had to service their vehicles often due to the condition of the roads. They also stated that traffic police fine them for driving vehicles which are not roadworthy, which they say is due to the damaged roads.

A driver who commutes from outside Maluti to Matatiele town said roads in Matatiele have not been given attention by government since 2012 while another man, Mokiti Lepheana, said the community has been complaining about unattended roads for years.

“Mayor of Matatiele Municipality, Momelezi Mbedla, engaged with business people, protest leaders and other stakeholders and reached an agreement to open the town until the MEC arrives in the area.

“Shops and government departments operating in town were opened on Monday,” said Matatiele Municipal spokesperson Olwethu Gwanya.

On Monday, the shut down of Matatiele was called off pending the arrival of the MEC on Tuesday.

Three vehicles that belong to the Department of Public Works and an office were burned while another office’s doors were damaged during protest action on August 14.

At the time, the protestors called for excavators and graders that were located inside the Department of Public Works premises in Maluti to go on site to re-gravel roads.

They said the T69, KwaMzongwana Road and small roads in Maluti needed attention. They also wanted the road between Maluti and Matatiele town to be renewed, saying it has caused numerous accidents due to unattended potholes.

As a result of last week’s protest action, government moved all excavators and graders from Maluti to Mount Ayliff for security reasons.

When the MEC arrived at the Matatiele municipal council chambers on Tuesday afternoon, she was welcomed by protest leaders, business forums, municipal leaders and religious leaders who wanted roads to be fixed as soon as possible.

A decision to end protest action was reached after the MEC promised that excavators and graders will be on site by Monday.

“To make sure that the programme of fixing roads is done in a positive manner, we need to establish a steering committee which will be led by the mayor. Burning government property is not acceptable and investigations will take place,” said MEC Tikana.

Alfred Nzo District Municipality Democratic Alliance caucus leader Wonga Potwana said the people of Matatiele are being sidelined by government because the problem of roads was raised a long time ago.

“The road leading towards the Lesotho border is in very bad condition and businesses from Lesotho and Matatiele suffer. Most people from Lesotho are trading in Matatiele,” said Potwana.

SAPS spokesperson Captain Raphael Motloung said no arrests were made during the protest action and police have opened cases of public violence, arson and malicious damage to property.