Protesters in Alexandra march to the Sandton local municipal offices on April 8 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY
Protesters in Alexandra march to the Sandton local municipal offices on April 8 2019. Picture: ALON SKUY

With just 30 days to go until the 2019 elections, the ANC and the DA trading barbs over barbs over the protests in Alexandra is probably a sign of things to come. And not a good one at that.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, despite being in office for three years, blames it all on the ANC and has so far shown disdain for the community and its demand to meet him.

The whole thing might have been defused with a handshake, the acceptance of a memorandum and a promise to look into the people’s grievances. This seems like a strange time to want to appear indifferent and aloof. And of course, the ANC is hardly going to own up to its own history of failing the people of that township, which is just a stone throw away from Sandton, Africa’s richest square mile.

Mashaba was scheduled to hold a media briefing on Tuesday, at which he was likely to make allegations against the ruling party, accusing it of using law-enforcement agencies and other state institutions to wage a “political war” against the multiparty city government he presides over.

“It is apparent that the change being delivered in Johannesburg poses a real threat to the ANC,” the city said in a media advisory ahead of the press conference.

If the ANC is inciting violence in the township, then the party is in breach of the electoral code of conduct and the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), together with the police, should deal with it. 

ANC national executive committee (NEC) member and convicted felon Tony Yengeni has already violated it by taking to Twitter and saying “tyres are waiting” for Mashaba, which clearly alludes to the practice of necklacing. The tweet has since been deleted.

While residents have been protesting since last week, no one has actually attended to their grievances.

It is important to remember that Alexandra was the site of violent protests in the aftermath of the 2014 elections when ballot boxes with ballot papers were discovered in the township. That saw the army being called in.

Alex residents have long had an uneasy relationship with the government in power and it is easy to see why.

The situation in the township has hardly improved over the past 25 years, despite an expensive R1.3bn renewal project that dates back to when Thabo Mbeki was president. Only the most loyal ANC cadre would argue it was value for money.

In 2012, when it was in opposition the DA conducted a survey in Alexandra and found that residents were disappointed with a project that they said did not help them in any way, despite the promise when it was launched 11 years earlier that it would make a significant improvement to their living conditions.

Alexandra was also the site of xenophobic attacks in 2008 and 2015, a symptom of the lack of delivery that fuels a need to find scapegoats. Let down by their government, residents lash out at foreigners. 

The ANC and DA might be politicking about the issues in Alexandra now, but there is no denying that service delivery has been a huge problem, irrespective of the party in power.

Mashaba cannot hide in his office in Braamfontein and expect tempers in the township to cool as he fires political shots across the bow at the ANC. DA Gauteng premier candidate Solly Msimanga bringing criminal charges against the community only serves to inflame emotions.

If ever there was a time for collective responsibility it is now. It might be too much to ask, with an election around the corner, but it is time for the ANC and the DA to put the people first.