Calm restored in Qolweni – for now
Plettenberg Bay can hopefully look forward to peace and quiet once again after the town’s mayor Peter Lobese met with the unhappy community of Qolweni, who recently resorted to riots to highlight their plight for housing, schools, clinics and safety. Yolandé Stander reports on the outcome of this community engagement
Qolweni residents, who were at the centre of recent public unrest over various issues from housing to unemployment, have been given new hope after a series of commitments from the Bitou Municipality.
These residents staged sporadic protests on the N2 in Plettenberg Bay between 11 and 14 June which brought traffic to a standstill and forced businesses to close their doors during the action due to looting and petrol bombings in the area.
Some of their demands included housing, a clinic, a school in the community and employment.
Bitou mayor Peter Lobese met with the community on 14 June, which brought the riots to an end, and agreed to report back to them with an action plan.
Mayor meets with community
This extensive report-back meeting took place on 21 June.
One of the issues involved the seven protestors who were arrested during the riots. “The mayor raised this matter with the Plettenberg Bay police, who in turn will interact and liaise with the Department of Justice and the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to consider, as this falls outside the mandate of the municipality,” municipal spokesperson Manfred van Rooyen said.
Another issue raised was the high unemployment rate in Qolweni, especially among the youth. “The mayor, on behalf of the municipality, acknowledged the concern raised by the community on the unemployment challenges. The municipality is encouraging all unemployed youth to register on the municipal database for employment, as this is a requirement of the employment policy.”
‘Preference to Qolweni’
The mayor committed that the municipality would give preference to Qolweni unemployed youth involving projects and Extended Public Works Programme (EPWP) opportunities taking place in Ward 3.
“This, however, does not apply to scarce skills. The mayor stressed that employment opportunities in the municipality are open to all community members that meet the minimum requirements. Community members are encouraged to apply when the positions are advertised in our local newspapers and notice boards.”
The community also highlighted the need for formal housing – an issue that was recently highlighted after a fire swept through the community on 3 June, destroying 25 informal homes and leaving more than 100 residents, including 31 children, displaced.
169 houses to be built
Lobese announced several investments in this regard including 169 houses will be built at a projected cost of more than R38million. This project is set to commence on 1 November and is set to include transitional relocation area units and rudimentary services.
Van Rooyen added that 382 sites would also be serviced at a projected cost of close to R37-million. This, too, is set to include transitional relocation area units and rudimentary services.
“Both these projects are currently in the procurement process,” Van Rooyen said.
Lobese also announced a visit by national Minister of Human Settlements Nomaindiya Mfeketo on 5 July.
Plans for cultural village
With regard to the community’s demand for a school, community hall and satellite police station, Lobese said the demands had been referred to the responsible provincial and national departments as these fell outside the municipality’s mandate.
The residents also highlighted the lack of community projects. Lobese subsequently announced the re-establishment and upgrading of the Qolweni Cultural Village project for the 2018/19 financial year.
The mayor finally committed to ongoing communication and engagements to keep the communities abreast of progress with all the issues.
Calm after the storm: Qolweni in Plettenberg Bay.