MRM spreads peaceful protest message.
The Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) has been interacting with communities in various parts of the Gauteng province spreading the iCareWeCare message of peaceful protests and the preservation of public property. Led by MRM chairperson, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, the movement has been hosting dialogues with communities discussing the need to protest peacefully and the nobleness of preserving public property, particularly during mass protests. The initiative is part of the partnership between the MRM and the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development, which is aimed at encouraging communities to protest peacefully and not to damage public property. Local leaders such as municipality Councilors, Sanco, the clergy and youth organisations, among others, have been sharing the stage with MRM activists in condemning the violent protests phenomenon and pleading with communities to preserve public property, saying it is for their own good. Dialogues have been held in Everton, Khutsong, Daveyton, Tsakane, Magaliesburg and Midvaal over the past few weeks, with the attendance of hundreds of members of the community in each one of them. Discussed the scourge, Father Mkhatshwa has expressed regret that the 2015/6 #Feesmustfall protests had resulted in the destruction of property valued at almost R800-million in several universities. The protests were justifiable, “and we support them,” he said, but lamented the fact that universities and the state now had that huge bill to fix the damaged property over-and-above having to finance free higher education. “We understand the anger and the frustration over a lack of, or slow service delivery, but when you protest about a lack of electricity and burn a library, you have not solved the problem, but created another one. “This property is ours, for our use… If we destroy it, we deprive ourselves,” he added. At the Everton dialogue, Sedibeng Speaker, Cllr Melina Gomba, thanked the Everton community for the fact that no public property had been destroyed in the area during service deliver protests in the recent past. But she said the burning of tyres and rubble on roads had become a worrying occurrence that needed to be discontinued. She urged communities to protect members of the police, councilors, teachers and help stem the hijacking of ambulances. Cllr Gomba also urged members of the community to use the petition system to convey their grievances to the authorities. The event was also addressed by Sergeant Beverly Diphoko of the South African Police’s (SAPS) Youth Crime Prevention Desk, in Everton, who said the area was beset by a problem of youth drinking in taverns, which contributed to high rape incidents. Everton was ranked number five in terms of rape throughout the country, she revealed. Sgt Diphoko said her unit ran various projects aimed at helping the youth take part in positive activities, such as sport. She urged the area’s youth to take part in the said projects. Parents, added Sgt Diphoko, should be good examples to their children. Members of the community, who took to the podium, complained about unemployment, crime, poor environment, poor service delivery and a lack of responsiveness from those in authority whenever they are approached with service delivery concerns. “Protests turn violent because our leadership does not want to answer to our complaints,” said one member of the community, adding that they had used the petition system suggested by Speaker Cllr Gomba, but they had received no response. Guests speakers from several organisations, such as the Vaal Aids Community Organisation, SA Unemployed Youth Forum, Reach Out Community Project, SA Breweries as well as motivational speakers, Ms SJ Nkabinde and Mr Romeo Makutu, echoed the call to preserve public property. In the Merafong dialogue, members of the community filled the local Khustong community hall to listen to and discuss the iCareWeCare message. Father Mkhatshwa led the proceedings by delivering the message of peaceful protest and urging members of the community to protect “their” property. “A community hall, like this, may have been built by the state, but it’s for our use. If we destroy it, we deprive ourselves,” he said. MRM’s national office manager, Mr Neo Chaka, echoed Father Mkhatshwa’s message, saying that public property was built with taxpayer’s money, and burning it was tantamount to “burning our own money”. Council Speaker, Cllr Elvis Mpithikezi thanked MRM for bringing the campaign to the area, adding that it made sense to preserve public property, which was built for the community’s common good. Members of the community present decried corruption, poor service delivery, unemployment and nepotism in the employment of people in the council. The local police was criticized for allegedly working with criminals, thus exacerbating crime in the area. “When you report a crime to the police, they go and tell the person you have reported, and that person comes for you… They are part of the crime,” said one irate participant. The municipality was reported to be apathetic in addressing service delivery complains, thus creating conditions for violent protests. “We know, if we don’t destroy property, we will never get the attention,” claimed one participant. Father Mkhatshwa has urged local leaders to prioritise ongoing communication with members of the community as a means to build trust and lower tensions. The dialogues continue this and next week in various locations in the West and East corridors.