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Balfour warms up to 'king' zuma

By Luzuko Pongoma | Aug 05, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma surprised residents of Siyathemba in Balfour, Mpumalanga, with a visit yesterday.

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma surprised residents of Siyathemba in Balfour, Mpumalanga, with a visit yesterday.

This after the residents embarked on a violent service delivery protest last month.

After landing, Zuma headed for the first house and met Wendy Mabote and her uncle Petros Modise.

While chatting with Mabote and Modise, more residents gathered outside the yard. An elderly neighbour, Nomkhuhlane Dlamini, 76, who walks with the aid of her walking stick, jumped the queue to shake Zuma's hand.

"I heard the noise and they told me the king was here," Dlamini said.

Zuma said: "It is important for me to come unannounced to hear the people and consult the mayor."

Mabote, who lives in a shack, asked Zuma to deliver a proper house and permanent employment for her and her family of five.

After listening to the residents' complaints Zuma said the government needed to "reconfigure service delivery".

"People here do not have healthcare facilities, no school and yet education is one of our priorities," he said.

Zuma then moved to the mayor's office. An assistant who was eating dropped her plate on seeing him.

Mayor Lefty Tsotetsi was not in since he had reported sick, but he came after Zuma undertook to wait for him in his office.

Zuma promised to embark on similar visits to areas beset by problems because it was important for him "to keep in contact with the people".

Zuma told the community that he would send ministers Tokyo Sexwale, Sicelo Shiceka and Membathisi Mdladlana to address their complaints on housing, corruption and unemployment.

He warned the community that embarking on violent strike action was a crime.

"What is not acceptable is protest that destroys property," he said.

"If you destroy your community you are shifting the focus of the protest and it is also a crime."

Zuma also visited Somali shopkeepers housed in a church after fleeing their homes and abandoning their businesses during the protest.

Shopkeeper Muhammad Waqas asked Zuma for financial support to enable them to reopen their businesses after their shops were vandalised during the protest.

"We have nothing. We slept outside cold on the day of the protest," he said.

"People have asked us to come back to Siyathemba but we cannot because we have nothing."

Waqas also asked Zuma to protect them from future victimisation.

Zuma could not be pressed to set a time-frame on when residents' grievances would be addressed.


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