Bapsfontein community now united

By Max Rambau, CORC

Bapsfontein 10 Feb 2011

ISN leader Herbert Malewa  addressing the people at Bapsfontein Hotel

On Thursday I attended the report-back meeting that was held at Bapsfontein Hotel. The purpose of this meeting was to report back on the matter of the arrested community members and to discuss the issue of pressure the community was getting from the municipality. The meeting was well attended with many people having to listen from outside of the venue.

It was reported that all the community members who had been arrested were all released because there was no case against them.

An appeal was made to the community to support their leaders so that they can work well. It was indicated that the leadership of Bapsfontein was almost divided when the forced removals/evictions were carried out.

It was said that some people appeared to have been intimidated into agreeing to move because the municipality threatened to destroy their shacks. It was also reported that the community of Bapsfontein was now united because no families are prepared to move.

There was a question on what would happen if the community would resist for three months because there was a rumour that the municipality would apply for a court order to come and destroy shacks. It was clarified that there was no such thing and the fears of the community were allayed. The community was assured that what happened in December 2010 would not happened because the community was protected by the Bill of Rights. After this report-back the people were happy and they went back to their homes.

We then sat for a meeting with the local leadership to discuss some issues that included the letter they had written to the City Manager of the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality. This letter seemed to indicate that the local leadership was compromising. In the letter it is indicated that the remaining community of Bapsfontein was in no opposition to being removed from its current land as long as the alternative land meets what they called basic needs, i.e. proximity to places of work and safety and security.

The letter had already been sent to the municipality before it was even given to us for advice. The members of committee indicated to us that this letter was sent by the secretary without their consent because they were expecting this to pass through the ISN and CORC for advice.

We tried to encourage them not to allow themselves to be divided because they were faced with a major problem and had to provide leadership in the community.

It was agreed that in future if there is anything that happens we should inform each other and that no member of the committee would do anything without the knowledge of the other. The Bapsfontein leadership will be part of the Benoni meeting with the Ekurhuleni Municipality. This is the monthly partnership meeting with the municipality.

I was phoned yesterday (11/02/2011) by the leadership that some municipality officials indicated that they were not responsible for the relocations and wanted to apologise to the community. They said that it was the Province that was responsible. There is a meeting planned for today by the municipality for the local leadership to meet with some officials from the province. I then advised them not to agree to meet with these officials but they should demand the presence of the MEC because this matter was already in his hands.