Angry crowd burns down a councilor’s car

Monday, February 5, 2024
 – An Ekurhuleni councillor has told of how he escaped an angry mob that ended up torching his vehicle during a service delivery meeting.

Ward 82 councillor Desmond Buitendacht said the community of Mkhancwa informal settlement, who were demanding housing, electricity, water and sanitation, accused him and the government of failing them.

He said the settlement became part of his ward in 2021 and last Tuesday he met with community leaders after he was told about threats to prevent officials from the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) from doing their jobs during the voting registration weekend.

Buitendacht said the leaders demanded he and MMC for human settlements Masele Madihlaba come to a meeting to discuss service delivery issues.

He said he told them on Thursday that he could not get hold of Madihlaba but he was willing to address their concerns.

“They [the community] asked me what I did to address their issues and I told them about the verification process [on how many homes qualify for housing] and told them we are working on the issues,” he said.

Buitendacht said residents told him that he and other officials only “took them seriously when it is election time”.

“There were people around me and they said they are going to burn tyres and they are going to burn me. They stood around me as I tried to give them answers. In the process, some of them said they were going to burn the tyres. I walked away from them as they went to burn tyres and I was afraid to go to my vehicle.”

Buitendacht said he watched as the community torched his VW Golf 1 which was valued at R35,000.

“I was standing there when they were burning my vehicle and I thought to myself, 'how am I going to get out of this?' It was a miracle I came out without a scratch. At least I am alive, others are killed. I am trying my utmost to better the people’s lives.”

Buitendacht said the verification process was started in 2022.

He said he held several meetings with the community,  some of whom sometimes contacted him to get clarity on how to apply for housing.

According to a 2023 audit report on the settlement, 1,148 homes were audited by the city and only eight families were found to have already been approved for allocation of houses in other areas.

It found that 139 were registered on the National Housing Needs Register and 618 were not.

However, 368 homes “were not found during the audit”, with Madihlaba saying these are homes where the occupants were not found at home.

He said in October 2023, they called a public meeting to report back on the outcome of the occupancy audit, which would assist with how many people reside at the informal settlement and who qualifies for housing.

“We linked [the qualifying residents] to the Brakpan old location where we are going to build 8,000 houses,” he said.

The ANC Ekurhuleni regional task team has condemned “in the strongest of terms the malicious and backward act of arson” against Buitendacht.

“We wish to put it on record that the attempts to stop the voter registration for the 3rd and 4th of February 2024 from taking place at Mkhancwa voting district puts the community at a disadvantage by not participating in a democratic process,” said the task team’s Jongizizwe Dlabathi.

Buitendacht told Sowetan that the voting registration weekend ran smoothly. 

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