INTERVENTION by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Richard Baloyi may have calmed tempers and delayed an Eastern Cape town’s potentially disruptive mass protest.

Baloyi visited Sterkspruit on Sunday, ahead of a planned 10-day protest action from today which residents said could see a complete shut down of the town.

The protests are being led by the Sterkspruit Civic Association, which claims to represent the town’s residents. They are demanding secession from Senqu Municipality, alleging a lack of service delivery and corruption.

But Baloyi’s visit may have calmed some tensions after he promised to set up a task team to investigate corruption, lack of service delivery and viability of a new municipality.

By late yesterday afternoon, Sterkspruit residents and the association’s leadership were still meeting to decide whether or not to continue with the planned protest.

“Yes we had a meeting with the minister yesterday [Sunday] and he later went on to address the people,” said Mcebisi Mgojo, chairman of the Sterkspruit Civic Association. He said Baloyi promised to come back again on Thursday, with the Eastern Cape premier Noxolo Kiviet and local government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane.

Baloyi’s spokesman Ngamola Nkuna could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press, however, the department had released a statement saying the minister was going to meet with the civic organisation and the business community.

Qoboshiyane’s spokesman Mvusiwekhaya Sicwetsha confirmed there was a plan to meet the residents.

DA provincial legislature leader Bobby Stevenson released a statement on Sunday expressing his concern about what he called a volatile situation.

“We fear it could burst into flames and there could be serious loss of life and damage to property as the Sterkspruit Civic Organisation embarks on a 10-day rolling protest action to shut the town down from Monday,” read the statement.

The party also claimed there had been no service delivery in the town since November last year following a similar protest because of alleged intimidation.

However, Mgojo denied the municipality or its employees were being prevented from offering services in Sterkspruit.

He said they had resolved to do their own cleaning because the municipality wasn’t doing it, adding the workers come only when they feel like doing so.

The municipality could not be reached for comment as municipal manager Mxolisi Yawa’s phone went unanswered yesterday. —