Thugs set councillor’s office alight

SIYAVUYA KHAYA

Ward 35 councillor Mzukisi Mpondwana is still in shock after his office was set alight on Wednesday April 13. The incident happened around 8pm, allegedly perpetrated by armed men who are unhappy with the processes followed in selecting the ANC’s candidates for Ward 35 in the upcoming local government elections.

Mr Mpondwana told Vukani that there was a meeting, which was organised to take place in his office when four armed boys came in and ordered those present to leave as they wanted to burn the office.

As people were trying to escape, he said, they were pelted with rocks and were shot at, but unfortunately no one was injured.

This comes after the ANC held a branch general meeting (BGM) to choose four candidates to vie for the position of the ward councillor in the local election scheduled for Wednesday August 3.

But, he said, there are ANC members who are unhappy about the four candidates who were chosen and they wanted to include their own candidate on the list.

“These people are the new members of the ANC and they were beaten fair and square in terms of selecting appropriate candidates. And they are trying to influence the community. This is not the first time my office had been targeted. Three weeks back, a group of people pelted my office with rocks and vandalised it,” he said.

Mr Mpondwana said previously, a group of people had marched to his house and demanded that he step down from his position as ward councillor.

He said the four candidates, of which he is one, were due to appear before the ANC screening committee before they could be officially named as the candidates for the ward.

But the screening committee is not able to conduct the screening meetings because they fear they may be sabotaged.

Last year, he said, his house had been set alight when violence erupted between residents of Marikana and Philippi . “The service this office was rendering to the people of Philippi has been brought to a complete standstill as my printer and other stuff were burned.

“People who live in informal settlements won’t be able to get proof of address because this has been destroyed. I have turned away many people here already who needed the services of this office,” he said.

Commenting on his safety, he said his life and his family were indeed in danger, but he has not yet decided whether to quit or to continue as ward councillor. “My family is traumatised especially my children,” said Mr Mpondwana, adding that his family had begged him to leave politics and return to the teaching profession.

Philippi East police spokesperson, Lieutenant Bheki Xulu said police were investigating the matter. “A case of arson has been opened and no one has been arrested yet. Police are investigating this matter,” he said.

Xolani Sotashe, ANC chief whip in the City of Cape Town, lambasted the perpetrators, but said he could not speculate about who had carried out the attack. He said people should allow the law to run its course.

Mr Sotashe said should it be found that party members may have been involved, a disciplinary process would be convened.

“The fact that these people had guns and instructed people to leave the meeting purely shows that they were not there to raise any concerns about service delivery, but they had targeted the councillor,” he said.

“It is not up to us only as leaders to protect the properties that render services to the community, but it is the job of the community at large to protect the properties that are there to services them.

“No one can impose a candidate without following the right procedures of the party,” he concluded.

Chairperson of the South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO) in Philippi, Sandile Malgas, condemned the vandalism of the office and appealed to people to find alternative ways to voice their frustrations .

“The services that the office were providing to the people of Philippi East have been halted and people are left wandering around without knowing where to seek help. That is a pure senseless action.

“We as Sanco have not met with the councillor yet, but we hope we will soon to discuss a way forward,” he said.

Cape Town Fire and rescue spokesperson, Theo Layne, said the City of Cape Town’s fire and rescue services were alerted to the blaze in the evening. “There was damage to the ceiling, windows, walls and floor and some contents were destroyed or damaged,” he said.