minister is warned

RESIDENTS of Siyathemba township near Balfour in Mpumalanga have warned of another wave of violent protests after Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka failed to return to the area yesterday as promised.

RESIDENTS of Siyathemba township near Balfour in Mpumalanga have warned of another wave of violent protests after Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka failed to return to the area yesterday as promised.

Shiceka had put together a task team to defuse the volatile situation after violence erupted in the region in February. But this initiative is on the brink of collapse, with community members threatening to withdraw.

Community representatives in the task team said yesterday that Shiceka's failure to appear and to report on the demarcation issue as promised, showed that the government had no regard for the community. The representatives asked not to be named out of fear of being targeted.

Shiceka visited the area on February 18, when Siyathemba township was plunged into a violent protest and stayaway that lasted for two weeks. During his visit Shiceka said he would look into residents' demands and would come back by yesterday.

He appointed an official from his office, Tozi Faba, to facilitate the task team.

"There has been no word from Shiceke's office since his last visit to the area," Faba said.

"Wherever we go people ask us whether Shiceka is coming or not. They want progress. We will not be able to stop the people if they protest again," he said.

Faba said residents had made it clear at the task team's last meeting that they did not want to hear about anything other than the issue of the re-demarcation of Balfour to Gauteng.

"We are saying that service delivery would be attended to once we are in Gauteng.

"Johannesburg is about 45km way from us whereas Mpumalanga's provincial capital is Nelspruit which is 400km away," he said.

Residents also said Shiceka's recent visit had taken place after an earlier one that had proved entirely fruitless.

He first visited the area after Siyathemba residents had staged a service delivery protest last year.

Attempts to obtain comment from Shiceka's office were unsuccessful.

Sowetan e-mailed an enquiry to his spokesperson Vuyelwa Qinga Vika in vain.

Numerous phone calls were made to him on Monday but he did not respond.

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