Noordgesig situation still ‘very tense’

2011-06-10 15:06

The situation at Noordgesig, near Soweto, where people are protesting against rolling blackouts, was “still very tense”.

“The group is very aggressive and any small thing can get them fired up,” Mark Trimble, the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Affected People (NAAAP) said.

“There is still a stand-off between police and the community but they are adamant that they will not disperse.”

Trimble said a councillor from the City of Johannesburg came to speak to the community this afternoon about the electricity blackouts.

“His first assumption was that people were stealing cables but when we went to check with him we saw nothing had been taken.

“That made the community more agitated because instead of getting help from the City they getting labelled thieves.”

People were burning tyres and dragging debris into the road, but no one was throwing stones, he said.

“We fear that police will start firing tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd.”

He claimed a police armoured van had almost driven into a group of about 50 people who were standing on the side of the road aggravating the protesters even more.

Police spokesperson Captain Katlego Mogale said police were trying to protect those who were not protesting and protect the protesters from themselves.“We cannot go on like this ...

The more violent protesters get, the more force we have to use,” she said.“We have been trained for these types of situations.”

Police were expected to patrol the area throughout the night.“We will be here until the protest ends,” Mogale said.

Earlier in the day, police shot rubber bullets at protesters and residents responded by throwing stones.Public order police, Orlando police and Metro Police were on the scene and had calmed the situation.

There were rumours that the electricity had been reconnected because of Albertina Sisulu’s memorial.

“They’re probably doing this to ease the protest but then we’ll wake up tomorrow and the power will be off again,” Trimble said.The NAAAP was formed in 2004 and convened in 2006.

Trimble said the organisation believed that all South Africans had been affected by bad service delivery for too long.He said NAAAP had been working with government and offering solutions.

“We have been working with government for free but the problem is they don’t listen to the people... Service delivery has been government’s biggest gripe,” he said.Yesterday, the NAAAP accused police of assaulting and shooting at protesters.

Trimble said those injured were planning to lay charges against the police.Mogale said: “If that’s the route they want to take then they must take it”.

Residents of Noordgesig protested on Wednesday after spending two days without electricity.

They were joined by residents from Newclare, Westbury, Riverlea and Eldorado Park.

City power reconnected the power following the protest, but it went off again shortly after that.

The protesters also used the opportunity to demonstrate against frequent water shortages, poor service delivery, lack of housing and inflated billing by the City of Johannesburg.

City spokesperson Gabu Tugwana said it had committed to work with all the communities to quickly resolve the problems.

“The people of these communities need to ensure that there is no damage to the electrical infrastructure.

There wouldn’t be a need to switch off the power to repair it then.” 

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