Criminal elements blamed for looting at Balfour protest

2010-02-09 14:45

Criminals, and not legitimate protesters, were responsible for the

looting and torching of property during the protests in Balfour, a man

identifying himself as a community leader said today.

“We have put the protests on hold. Part of what is happening is

that we have been overtaken by criminal elements, these are the same people who

are looting shops,” said Zakhele Maya, leader of a group called Dipaleseng,

formed to voice concerns over the local Burnstone Mine’s employment and

development policies.

This comes after foreigners’ shops were looted and their properties

and a municipal building set alight on Sunday and yesterday.

Twenty-two people were due to appear in the Balfour Magistrate’s

Court to be charged with public violence as about 60 policemen patrolled the

township, whose main entrance was blocked with burning logs.

Maya said the criminals were taking the focus off the main issue –

that the mine was allegedly not keeping its promise to hire half its workforce

from the local community.

He accused foreign shopkeepers of having a hand in the

violence.

He said before the protests started, they met the shopkeepers and

told them of their intention to protest at the mine, and expressed concerns

that, in previous uprisings, criminals had taken advantage to loot.

Maya explained that they asked the foreigners to remove cash and

merchandise from their shops for their own safety, and had even helped them do

so.

However, during the protests, criminals moved in and the

shopkeepers then turned on the protesters.

He said it was not possible to identify the criminals as they

targeted the shopkeepers in the early hours of the morning and it was difficult

to find them.

The burning of a municipal office yesterday took place during a

“war” between police and others, and the situation was too chaotic to identify

anyone, he said.

The group wants the Burnstone Mine’s licence suspended until their

concerns are addressed, and they plan to resume their protests and march to the

mine when they have been given permission by authorities to do so.

A mine spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.


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