Ramokgopa returned to Bronkhorstspruit on Wednesday and held closed-door meetings with community leaders about service delivery problems. The engagement followed a string of violent protests in the area.
“It is regrettable that the community resorted to damage infrastructure because, in the main, that infrastructure is meant to assist them. This has been our third instalment of discussions with the community,” he said.
“The community needs to appreciate that they may not be able to get their way all the time but we can’t be harming public infrastructure.
“Unfortunately it’s not like the council is sitting on a pool of money so that whenever there is destruction of property, there is always money to replace it.”
He said he hoped the destruction of public property would not be repeated.
“We have always been ready to discuss with the communities. There is a social cost because of these actions. It is the poor, the elderly who suffer as a result of the destruction of property,” said Ramokgopa.
Violent protests erupted earlier this month in the townships of Zithobeni, Rethabiseng and Ekangala, near Bronkhorstspruit, over grievances which included the high price of electricity.
Police said seven buildings had been set alight during protests in the area, including a clinic, a library, and a hall.
Ramokgopa is expected to address the community again on Sunday, in the series of meetings aimed at cooling down tempers.
Community leader Abram Mashishi said the engagement with the municipality would not be derailed by violent criminals.
“This is not a banana republic where we can withhold the government from accessing people. Our agenda is not to hold the city at ransom, we are willing to work with the city to resolve all the issues.
“Whoever is not in line with that, we are distancing ourselves from those people who behave like hooligans. We want to ensure that concerns from the community are addressed in a fair and transparent manner,” said Mashishi.
Ramokgopa last visited the area on February 19 when he received the memorandum from members of the Bronkhorstspruit Group of Concerned Residents. He met religious and business leaders during his last visit.
Residents’ demands included more jobs, sports facilities, an end to police brutality, and eradication of corruption and nepotism.
In a memorandum given to the mayor recently, the residents added: “Health facilities like Bronkhorstspruit Hospital have been closed without any reason and we demand that they be opened as a matter of urgency.”
According to Ramokgopa’s prepared responses to the residents the hospital issue was not his responsibility.
“The issue of the hospital is the competency and jurisdiction of the Gauteng provincial department of health. Gauteng health has entered into negotiations with the Netcare Bronkhorstspruit Hospital. There is an offer to sell it to the department.”
He said the matter would be finalised in the next three months.
On jobs in the area, Ramokgopa said further capital investments would be made.
“The city has in three years approved capital projects at the value of R950 million in the region and they have been implemented. This includes the Ekangala waste water treatment works, re-gravelling of roads, and installation of solar water geysers.”
He said hundreds of youths had been recruited from the region for projects, including the extended public works programme and the city’s Tshepo 10,000 programme.
Ramokgopa said allegations of police brutality had been referred to the provincial police commissioner.
He urged residents to approach the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. He asked them to report corruption and nepotism anonymously.