East London city hall ‘petrol-bomb attack’ investigated

2014-02-05 19:14

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East London police said forensic investigations were under way to determine how a fire was started at the city hall – possibly the result of a petrol-bomb attack.

This comes after hundreds of municipal workers of the Buffalo City Metro allegedly set the city hall alight this afternoon during a protest about a “fourteenth cheque” or back pay.

Police spokesperson Captain Stephen Marais said: “Our forensic teams are still gathering evidence. There was fire but we cannot speculate how it started but it was put [out] quickly. A case of arson has been opened,” Marais said.

He said about 30 people were arrested this afternoon following the violent protests led by the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu).

Marais said the arrested individuals would be charged with public violence, arson and damage to property.

When City Press arrived at the scene shortly after the incident, police, fire-fighters and traffic cops had their hands full as they tried to contain the situation.

Forensic investigators were still busy combing the scene near a visible burnt part of the city hall’s left wing.

The two main streets of East London, Oxford and Buffalo roads, came to a standstill as the protesters burnt garbage bins and uncollected refuse along the streets.

Marais said: “We are having our hands full because while we try to control this situation here, the protesters are burning something there to get our attention. But we are [up] to the task. If need be we will call for more manpower and reinforcements. For now the situation is still under control.”

He said after negotiations between the police and protesters had failed, stun grenades, rubber bullets and water cannons were used to disperse the crowd.

“We are not saying people must not protest, it is their right to do so, but they must do so responsibly. The police would act if people break the law,” Marais said.

By this evening, things were calm in Oxford Street. The police were keeping a watchful eye on the city hall.

Samwu secretary Zolani Ndlela and Buffalo City spokesperson Keith Ngesi could not immediately be reached for comment.

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