The gatvol citizens of Alexandra were hoping that their shutdown protests would encourage the politicians to take accountability for their dire situation. Instead, the community has been given the hot potato treatment: Both the ANC and the DA have feverishly shifted the blame from one side to another.
It’s been eight days since the residents took to the streets, burning tyres and bringing the town to a standstill to drive their point home: Citizens are at their wit’s end with an alleged influx of migrants into an already-congested settlement, as new homes and shacks continue to be erected. Alex is running out of space. The people have run out of patience.
The situation could have been averted, according to both political parties at the heart of the issue. The DA-run city of Johannesburg is being blamed for ignoring the problems of Alexandra. But Mayor Herman Mashaba suggests that the problem is historical – and it all dates back to the Alex Renewal Project first tabled in 2001.
What is the Alex Renewal Project?
The project was the brainchild of the Thabo Mbeki administration. It’s been 18 years since the proposal – which promised to rejuvenate the region with new housing developments – was first tabled. But according to the DA’s John Moodey, the R1.7 billion set aside for the sprawling operation was squandered by corrupt ANC officials.
Moodey – the DA’s candidate for the Gauteng premiership – believes that his opposite number David Makhura made an admission of guilt on Tuesday. By confirming there would be an audit into where the missing money went, the ANC man now stands accused of giving the game away:
“Makhura has today stated that a full audit into the stolen Alex Renewal Project funds will be conducted. Presumably, these funds meant for the people of Alex ended up in the pockets of ANC politicians, who were rejected by the people of Johannesburg in 2016.”
“The Democratic Alliance (DA) has long called for accountability for these stolen funds. Now that the ANC no longer governs Johannesburg and faces losing Gauteng, they have resorted to a coordinated programme of anarchy and criminality in Alex, which has backfired.”
ANC fire back
Makhura, who accepted a memorandum from Alexandra protesters earlier on, did what Gauteng politicians have been doing best over the past week: He also passed the buck, suggesting the Alex Renewal Project is a responsibility that belongs to the DA’s municipality:
“These are historical issues that are around the Alexandra Renewal Project, and I want to dismiss any notion that national government put billions of rands into the project. The Alexandra Renewal Project was funded by the City of Johannesburg and the provincial government.”
When will Herman Mashaba visit Alexandra?
Mayor Mashaba has come in for stern criticism after he refused to meet the demonstrators on their terms. He is still insisting that he will go to the township on Monday 15 April to address their concerns. He risks being upstaged by the president, however: Cyril Ramaphosa will address the Alex Total Shutdown movement this Thursday
Mashaba, whose invitation has since been revoked by the Alex community, said that he would like to appear next to the president on Thursday, to show that the problems Alex face are not a provincial, but a national issue.