There’s calm in Heidedal following a riotous two weeks of protests from residents who wanted to occupy the municipal land, saying they were tired of waiting for local government to deliver on its promises.
Problems in Heidedal began on 15 April when the community had a meeting where it expressed its intention to occupy unoccupied land in the township, following the fact that many of its residents were either living in dire situations or were homeless.
This was proceeded by a week of protests and one of the local leaders, Daniel Wessenaar, being arrested, thus angering these residents more, as they alleged that Wessenaar had been arrested unfairly.
The Democratic Alliance in the Free State’s Ward 47 councillor, Attie Terblanche, said that there was relative calmness in the community following the event as the community is now waiting for a response from the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality’s Executive Mayor, Olly Mlamleli.
Three meetings were held during the course of last week with MMM’s City Manager, Advocate Tankiso Mea, who reportedly requested that residents wait for another three months for adequate plans to be made before residents take over the municipal land they had identified. This led to a rebellion in the community on Friday and subsequently, streets were barricaded with rocks and rubble owing to dissatisfaction at Mea’s responses.
Another meeting of the committee was again held on Saturday, 21 April, however, committee member and community leader Abie James, would not disclose discussions that took place in the meeting. He simply stated that the committee was waiting for Mlamleli’s response to the grievances the community gave her through her deputy, Lebohang Masoetsa.
Meanwhile, the community had also requested that all members of the Heidedal community who were arrested during last week’s protests be released as a sign of good faith by 29 April. Police spokesperson, Ikobeng Hlubi, stated that only Wessenaar was arrested during the protests and he has since been released and appeared at the Batho Court last week Friday.