Mpumalanga’s political ‘hostage drama’ that never was

2014-08-12 13:51

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Mpumalanga police have denied reports that Emalahleni’s mayor was held hostage by young protesters at a local radio station yesterday.

Instead, they said, Salome Sithole managed to sneak out unharmed through a back door at Emalahleni FM while protesters demanded to see her.

The protests started last Wednesday in Ackerville township, outside Witbank. They were led by young residents who complained that mining, power generation and smelter companies in the area are not employing them.

The protests continued this morning, but Mpumalanga police spokesperson Brigadier Selvy Mohlala said the youngsters had dispersed peacefully by late morning.

Mohlala insisted there had been no hostage drama at Emalahleni FM, despite local newspaper reports to the contrary.

“The mayor was not held hostage. She was on air and towards the end of the programme community members demanding to see her came to the station. She used a back door and was rescued,” Mohlala said.

The radio station denied reports of a hostage drama.

“The mayor was invited to Emalahleni FM to address the community over the issues of unemployment, skills development and service delivery. However, the interview did not see the end as the unhappy crowd barricaded the entrance and exit of the Hector Way police station, 70m away from the Emalahleni FM studios. By then the mayor had managed to alternatively exit to safety,” the station said.

Earlier yesterday, the protesters had stormed Emalahleni’s council offices after Sithole and representatives from the companies in question did not honour a meeting scheduled for 10am.

A youth representative, who asked not to be named, said: “We approached the mayor to be a mediator between us and the companies, but to our surprise she and her councillors were meeting the company representatives when we decided to force our way into the chamber around lunch time.”

The representative alleged that Sithole “lied” while being interviewed on Emalahleni FM – she claimed the protesters had stormed out of the meeting.

“That’s what angered the youth and they went to the station to ask her why she lied. We were also not happy that she decided to go alone to the radio station to communicate issues discussed in the meeting,” he said.

Emalahleni spokesperson, Lebohang Mofokeng, said Sithole was traumatised by the incident and had not laid charges with the police.

“A process of engagement with the mines and other industries has been agreed upon in principle to seek joint sustainable solutions to issues raised,” said Mofokeng.

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