Matatiele poised for shutdown if Transport MEC fails to pitch up

Matatiele residents are threatening a total shutdown of the town on Tuesday if Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana fails to address them, GroundUp reported.

GroundUp has been following the demand for tarred roads and the protests over roads in Matatiele since August last year. Matatiele is near the Lesotho border.

Community leader Teboho Stemera said the terrible road conditions in the area were negatively affecting local businesses.

"I am a taxi driver and I constantly have to fix my vehicle because of the condition of the poor roads here. I've lost thousands of rands over the years."

He said the community has been complaining about the condition of its roads for six years.

"We started engaging the government in 2012. There was a different MEC then, but nothing has changed ever since."

Frustrated residents

Stemera added that most roads in Matatiele needed immediate fixing.

"The only thing we get from the municipality and the [provincial] Department [of Transport] is promises - no action," he said.

The frustrated residents, which include taxi drivers and local business people, took to the streets last week in a protest which turned violent. Three state vehicles were torched outside the provincial transport department's offices in Maluti.

In a statement released by her department, Tikana condemned the acts of violence and expressed "deep shock" and "disappointment over this damage to property".

According to the Matatiele Local Municipality, protesters also attempted to burn down the main office building.

Spokesperson Olwethu Gwanya said Mayor Momelezi Mbedla met with residents on Monday, who agreed to suspend protests.

However, "the protesters said if Minister Weziwe Tikana does not come to address them tomorrow, they will completely shut down Matatiele".

The MEC visited Matatiele last month and addressed the protesters.

Department spokesperson Unathi Bhinqose confirmed that the MEC would meet the protesters on Tuesday to address their concerns.