Violence-ridden Malamulele shuts down

2013-10-18 13:04

The usually abuzz CBD of Malamulele town was brought to a standstill, with the police station and health centres being the only operational institutions.

Businesses – from hawkers’ stalls to filling stations – and schools were also closed in a total shutdown amid violent protests that have left a trail of millions of rand in damage to property.

Read: Collins Chabane stuck in the Malamulele middle

The Congress of SA Students (Cosas) in Limpopo has expressed its support for the Malamulele community but condemned their actions, which have affected schooling at a critical time.

Learners were about to sit their final examinations.

The community vowed to continue with protest action after its bid to have its own municipality failed with the Municipal Demarcation Board.

The community wants to be independent from the current Thulamela council.

Fears were raised that Malamulele could become another Khutsong, where residents protested for months and refused to vote in local government elections about eight years ago.

Khutsong was fighting against the decision to incorporate it into North West while residents wanted it to remain part of Gauteng.

The decision was reconsidered after some time, following violence in which property, including councillors’ houses and government infrastructure, was burnt and damaged.

Back in Malamulele, police were monitoring the volatile area this morning following another night of running battles between the police and the protesting community.

A shell of a bakkie torched last night was seen on the outskirts of Malamulele towards Nandoni Dam this morning. Police said foreign-owned businesses were also targeted, burnt and looted.

Police were hard at work clearing the roads of big rocks as well as pipes used to barricade the roads, only for them to be put back on the road when they left.

At one point, a long wire was connected between two trees on opposite sides of the road.

Police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said motorists were being targeted as they came from work and their cars were pelted with stones.

Police this morning descended on Malamulele in large numbers to prevent the community from holding a meeting at Malamulele Stadium.

This has angered the protesting members of the community, who continued to block the roads at different spots in the area after they were barred from entering the stadium for what the police said was an illegal gathering.

A Malamulele demarcation task team member, Noel Manganyi, said police were wrong to bar them from holding a meeting where they could have possibly convinced the community to stop the protests and allow children to go back to school.

He said the task team was going to report back to the community that President Jacob Zuma’s office had acknowledged a letter requesting his intervention.

“The community had asked us to write to (Zuma) and we wanted to say to them we’re waiting for the president’s office to get back us with details of his intervention or (a) date on which (Zuma) could come to Malamulele or intervene. Now, by preventing such a meeting from taking place, the police are fuelling the situation, because we can’t address the community and ask them to calm down or suspend the protest action,” said Manganyi.

“I don’t know whether they are declaring this area a state of emergency, but the police are causing confusion.”

Mulaudzi said police have been strategically deployed to hot spots like government buildings, which were targeted by protesters.

“There has also been lots of intimidation and foreign businesspeople were also targeted. More people were arrested last night and we will continue to do so wherever and whenever there is lawlessness,” he said.

This will increase the number of arrests after 65 people appeared in court in cases of public violence yesterday.

They were remanded in custody for further investigation while one suspect, who is a minor, was released into his parents’ custody.

Meanwhile, tension was thickening in Malamulele with police vehicles seen at almost all entrances to the vast area. Assistance has also been sought from police from across Limpopo and Gauteng.

Later this morning, protesters started burning tyres and part of a hardware store was torched. Police were running amok trying to cover all spots, but were seemingly not able to cope with the large number of protesters.

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