Tshwane Mayor Solly Msimanga had to be escorted out of Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, on Monday, after he received a hostile reception by community members in the township, where five children were killed by municipal high-mast streetlights.
“Following the tragic events of Saturday, where five children between the ages of six to 12 were fatally wounded, Executive Mayor Msimanga planned a visit to the bereaved families in order to extend his heartfelt condolences in person,” said Msimanga’s acting spokesperson, Lindela Mashigo.
‘You can see the frustration of the community around here. They are very angry because services have been neglected.’
Seven children were playing at the large pile of the Apollo light, just outside the Bopape home on Saturday. The heavy metal ring which holds the highly hoisted street lights, fell on them, crushing four children to death on the spot.
Two children were rushed to hospital, and one passed away at the George Mukhari Hospital. One child was not hurt. Two of the children who died were cousins aged two and six from the Bopape family.
Mashigo said when Msimanga and his delegation arrived at Block X Community Hall, in Soshanguve on Monday morning, the municipal team was met by members from the local business forum, who indicated their “discomfort” with Msimanga’s presence.
“In light of the tragic events that recently unfolded and cognisant of the raw emotions, the executive mayor decided not to engage with the mob, but rather make his way to the first of the distraught families,” said Mashigo.
“Upon arrival at the house of one of the families, to express condolences to parents who had just lost a child, the mayor was again accosted by the mob which was clearly being used to push a political agenda at a time when politics was the furthest thing from the mayor’s mind.
“It is deeply regrettable that, not for the first time, people who are considered community leaders chose to put their own narrow political interest before the genuine feelings of the families.”
Msimanga’s office blamed the chaos on the opposition in Tshwane, the African National Congress (ANC).
“It is now undeniably clear that the ANC in Tshwane has given up all pretence of caring about the people and is now using people’s pain to drive a political agenda. This type of behaviour is condemned in the strongest terms,” said Mashigo.
“The mayor again would like to extend his condolences to the bereaved families and say to them that the Msimanga administration in the City of Tshwane mourns with them.”
Some residents complained that they had been shot at with rubber bullets, by members of the Tshwane Metro Police Department who were protecting Msimanga.
Some of the residents were holding used shells of rubber bullets apparently fired by the metro police.
Ward councillor Phumzile Hlatshwayo said the community had been baying for blood since Saturday.
“When I got here in the afternoon on Saturday, it was very bad. The community is very sensitive. They started burning tyres [on the road] since that day until today. You can see the frustration of the community around here. They are very angry because services have been neglected. We have sent petitions as the ward councillors. There are a number of high-mast lights like these which are open like this one [which crushed the children]. We have been requesting service delivery and their maintenance,” said Hlatshwayo.
“We are given the reason of insufficient budget, but if you go to areas like Waterkloof and so forth you won’t find these challenges. You can see that in the townships, the budget is being minimised, and the areas of priority are the suburbs.”