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Eastern Cape town pins its hopes on visit from President

Jun 24, 2017
Eastern Cape town pins its hopes on visit from President

The small town of Lusikisiki in the Eastern Cape looks like any rural town in the country. The center of the town is a hive of activity and informal business is sprawling and has become the engine of the local economy.

The area is not far away from the tourists’ favourite destinations such as Port St Johns and Port Edward. Hundreds of vehicles travelling to Durban from Mthatha pass here, which makes Lusikisiki a very well-known town. 

People here are generally friendly and live in peace with one another. But, a recent spike in serious crimes such as murder and robbery have got everyone in the town talking and fears are rising among locals that the once peaceful  Lusikisiki could now become a “little Nyanga” of the Eastern Cape – a comparison to Cape Town’s crime-ridden Nyanga  township.

“We are slowly but surely becoming some small Nyanga of the Eastern Cape the way things are going,” said 37-year-old local resident Melikhaya Sabalele. He said in the past, people used to walk the streets of Lusikisiki way beyond midnight, but not anymore.

What is even more shocking to the residents of this small town is the sudden rise in gangsterism with the emergence of a feared group known as Amavovo which is reportedly terrorizing the community.

Villages such as Malizole, Mdikana and Joe Slovo have recently had the most prevalent incidences that relate to criminal acts committed by Amavondo, and SAnews discovered during a visit to these areas on Friday that people now live in fear and some have embarked on self-imposed curfews.

According to local police, a recent incident at the beginning of June when a young boy was stabbed to death was linked to the Amavondo gang. Domestic violence is also a concern in the area with a recent case of a mother and her children killed by her boyfriend sending shockwaves throughout the small town. The gruesome killing in May made national television news.

The community has now appealed to government to intervene. President Jacob Zuma, who is leading the nationwide war on crime and drugs, will visit Lusikisiki on Saturday to hear for himself from the residents.

According to the Presidency, President Zuma’s Siyahlola visit to Lusikisiki will focus on addressing crime in the area, as well as issues of service delivery.

Some of the interventions that are already in place include the mobilisation of Community Policing Forum structures to assist the police in addressing the issue of crime and the deployment of public order policing in the area.

“We are opening a new police station in Lusikisiki to add capacity in the fight against crime in the area,” Police Minister Fikile Mbalula wrote in his Twitter account earlier this week.

The news of the police station, which is bigger and more modern than the old police station, is a welcome development for locals who are hoping to see more action being taken against criminals. President Zuma is expected to visit the police station and officially hand it over on Saturday.

Some locals are pinning their hope in President Zuma’s visit, and say they believe his presence will put a spotlight on the town’s plight.

“We are hoping that when the President comes here tomorrow, he will hear us and that more stronger efforts will be put in place to return our town to what we grew up knowing, peaceful and thriving,” said local elder Monwabisi Gqola.

But the Presidency emphasised this week that although crime fighting will be at the top of the agenda for the President’s visit to Lusikisiki, it will not be the only issue on the table.

With regard to service delivery, the focus will be on access to housing, sanitation, electricity, water and refuse removal. The Ingquza local municipality is responsible for providing solid waste management to the area, while the OR Tambo district municipality provides water, sewerage, and sanitation services. The municipality’s electricity is outsourced to Eskom.

Of the 60 households in the Lusikisiki area, about 39% live in formal dwellings, 22% in informal dwellings while 38% live in traditional dwellings. There are about 4 60 flush toilets, 39 900 Ventilation Improved Pits. But like many areas in South Africa, Lusikisiki has been experiencing water shortages since 2009, something that has slowed down the provision of flush toilets. The district was categorised as highly vulnerable during a 2015 assessment by the Department of Water and Sanitation.

But the good news President Zuma will hear is that access to electricity in the area is at around 90%, this is despite the difficult terrain and other challenges associated with brining electricity to deeply rural areas.

On Saturday, President Zuma is expected to highlight several medium to long-term programmes to improve the education, housing, health and infrastructure needs of the area.

– SAnews.gov.za