Friday 31 May 2019 chaos erupted in Alexandra township after the Red Ants demolished illegal structures in the area. Demolition of houses has become a political football, with the African National Congress-led provincial government blaming the Democratic Alliance-led City of Joburg administration for carrying out the demolitions.
The demolitions spike fire forcing incensed residents of Alexandra township to march to Sandton, demanding to see Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba. After Mashaba didn’t appear, residents instead went to the police to open a case against him.
Prior to the march disgruntled residents of Alexandra, citing service delivery issues, took to the streets of the township blocked roads leading into the area with rubble, burning tyres and rocks as they led the #AlexShutDown demonstrations. These protests have started before national general elections where residents were calling for the Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba to address them with regards to service delivery issues. The first protest spike a fight between the ANC and DA leadership in Gauteng where both parties exchanged words on social media and in public.
President Cyril Ramaphosa visited Alexandra during the ANC elections campaign and he gave an ultimatum to Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba to respond to the demands of the people of Alexandra in the next few days, saying he does not want to hear excuses.
Speaking to hundreds of people gathered in the township, Ramaphosa commended the organisers of the #AlexTotalShutdown for raising issues facing the community. He also said he was not happy with the dirt and sewage he saw all over the streets in Alex.
Mayor Herman Mashaba had promise to lead an engagement with the people of Alex on April 15. The mayor had hoped that the meeting would allow him and the community to engage on budgets and service delivery. The mayor made his much anticipated visit on the 31 May 2019. Just less than an hour before the beginning of a meeting between him and community, Marlboro community hall was already packed to the rafters. With banners written "we've been waiting since September 2018", the residents sang struggle songs insulating the mayor. Some residents, however, refused to let the official proceedings to begin. Even city speaker Vasco da Gama's plea with the group of Alex residents fell on deaf ears. The meeting did not produce any good fruits.
Joburg Mayor Herman Mashaba on Monday revisited the area where he apologised to destitute and homeless Alexandra residents whose houses were demolished, and then promised that the City of Joburg will immediately rebuild their houses. Human Rights Commission of Inquiry into Alexandra was launched and the probe was set up following a spate of protests in the troubled township. The inquiry is investigating possible human right violation among other things. Gauteng Human Settlements MEC Lebogang Maile was one of the people who was called to testify before the commission.
The commission has wrapped up its public hearings with testimony from the auditor general's office. The panel heard how leaders of the Alex Renewal Project compromised the success of the project. It also heard that the Gauteng Human Settlements Department failed to provide necessary documents including the approved business plan. Inquiry chairperson Buang Jones said after the conclusion of the public hearings they will now invite implicated individuals to a closed-door session.
Sandile Ndlovu, South Africa, Durban