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Premier delivers a bag of promises in Phola following unrest

Mpumalanga Provincial Premier Refilwe Mtshweni

Following a fortnight of tensions, standoffs and demonstration in the Phola community within the Emalahleni local municipality, the Mpumalanga Provincial Premier Refilwe Mtshweni finally arrived on Sunday in Phola to address a fully packed community hall on the service delivery issues that have birthed a chaotic terrain in Phola. The Mpumalanga Premier was accompanied Speedy Mashilo MEC COGTA, the Emalahleni Municipality Executive Mayor Linah Malatjie and the Mpumalanga SAPS Provincial Commissioner.

The community of Phola has been on a stand-off with the Emalahleni Local municipality for almost two weeks in spate that has seen the community lock down and burn a municipality building, a business premise and three houses. There was also a bloody clash among pressure groups when a group from Waya Waya movement went to Kendal power station to voice out their demands. The Waya Waya movement group was attacked by alleged members from Ogies, Iraq and Kendal Farms as they sang outside the Kendal Power Station gate and numerous individuals from the Waya Waya group sustained injuries from an attack with pangas, axes, knobkerries and steel rods.

The visit by the Premier could not have come at a better time and having initially lodged a question and answer session the Premier Refilwe Mtshweni took to the podium to address the masses. The issues raised ranged from crime, law and order, the Siyabonga settlement, housing and unemployment.

Speaking on unemployment, that has witnessed a rate that is on the rise not only in Phola but across the whole Mpumalanga the Premier Refilwe Mtshweni said “unemployment is a sore thumb for us as the Mpumalanga government and to address this issue here in Phola we will call all the mining houses and speak with them because my role also as the Premier is to ensure that people acquire employment opportunities and also that of creating an tranquil environment with infrastructure that will enable investors to come and roll out projects here in Mpumalanga and Phola”. The Premier also added that young people must acquire opportunities urgently and that mines must create opportunities for the young people, “we need to speak to the mines and ensure that opportunities are availed.  Let the form of alleviating the unemployment challenge be broadened as it will not work alone, let there be training and skilling platforms”.

Premier Refilwe Mtshweni took the time to also answer the questions on the Siyabonga settlement and indicated that their desired area still belonged to a private individual; “with regard to Siyabonga settlement area we are here for you and we can see the Emalahleni municipality IDP program has an indication that the area will be transformed into a formal settlement”. The Siyabonga land is a privately-owned land belonging to Ingwe South Holdings in the same matter with regard to Iraq. The Mpumalanga government will need to acquire the land properly before they fast track and roll out the formalisation of Siyabonga. Refilwe Mtshweni continued to speak on housing and in a move seemingly to curb irregularities with regard to issuing of the government RDP houses transferred the jurisdiction of issuing the RDP houses in Phola to the Emalahleni Executive Mayor Linah Malatjie.

In conclusion Refilwe Mtshweni thanked the crowd for their patience through out the days proceedings and indicated that there was a need to improve the manner with which the provincial and the local government communicated the decisions that they took as government. Communication has to be rolled out in an improved manner so that you become aware of the decisions that are resolved on and how they affect the community. The Premier concluded her address by beseeching the crowd with regard to peaceful demonstrations and stating that “we also plead with you that when you have challenges send a delegation to the municipal accounting offices, do not take to the streets violently dilapidation the little infrastructure that the municipality has erected for the community”.