Sanco sued after rampage
LESS than a month after Justice Minister Jeff Radebe opened a new court, and pleaded for the community of Ashton in the Western Cape not to damage state-owned buildings, the police station where he was speaking has been stoned in a service-delivery protest.
Now, the municipality is planning to sue the South African National Civic Organisation for R10-million for damage caused in the violent service-delivery protest last Wednesday in which the municipal gardens and an office block were damaged and a waste removal truck and recycling plant were set alight.
The community demanded that mayor Diana Gagiano immediately respond to grievances they had raised at the end of last month. These included that land be made available to build houses, schools and clinics and the council create jobs.
Radebe had urged residents not to burn down public facilities.
"Allow me to urge you to vigilantly take pride in public facilities as they are paid for through the hard-earned tax paid by all our people.
"No matter what grievance that the people of Ashton may ever have, I have confidence that they will not emulate the criminal behaviour that we have seen in some places, where public facilities are burnt down in the name of public protest, be it on service delivery or any other public concern," said Radebe.
The Langeberg Municipality, which includes towns such as Robertson, Ashton and McGregor, is also planning to lay criminal charges against the civic organisation.
This will be the first legal action instituted by a municipality following a recent Constitutional Court ruling, which found that organisers of protests could be held liable for damages resulting from such action.
Municipal manager Soyisile Mokweni said yesterday that about 200 residents of Zolani township in Ashton had gone on the rampage.
"Sanco chose a confrontational approach, which led to the destruction of property and the costs of the damage is estimated to be in the excess of R10-million," said Mokweni.
"The municipality will press criminal charges against the organisers, protesters and Sanco and also pursue a civil case against the same parties to recover damages caused as a result of the illegal protest actions."
But Simo Mketsu, the civic organisation's branch secretary, seemed unaware of the pending legal action.
"I don't mind the municipality laying charges or whatsoever. The mayor did not respond to the memorandum, then residents went berserk. She broke the law and then people did the same," said Mketsu.
"I don't want to say the residents' anger got beyond the leaders' control because Sanco leaders are residents themselves."