Community hall burned

2011-07-26 00:00

INFIGHTING within the ANC over the nomination process of a candidate to represent the party during the local government elections in the Richmond area in May is believed to be the reason behind the recent burning down of a building in a community centre in the KwaGengeshe area.

One of the buildings at the centre — a big roundavel with thatched roofing — was burned down at dawn on Thursday last week in a suspected arson attack

When The Witness visited the area yesterday, most residents it spoke to agreed that the fire had something to do with the infighting over the candidate list.

Richmond is one of many local municipalities under the uMgungundlovu District Municipality that was engulfed by internal squabbles during the nomination of candidates.

KwaGengeshe residents said the community is divided between those who supported the previous councillor of ward six, Dumekhaya Reuben Phoswa, and those who are backing the new councillor, Msawakhe Jili.

Sbongile Phoswa, a member of the ANC branch executive committee, confirmed there is a division within the ANC in the ward over the councillor’s position and said that they suspect that the arson attack was linked to the division.

Security guard Zama Phoswa, who is posted at the community hall a few metres from the burnt building, said he saw lights coming from the building and later saw smoke.

“I was astonished as the burnt building did not have electricity.

“Upon coming closer to it I realised that it was on fire and I notified my superiors, who contacted the fire brigade to douse the fire.”

Zama Phoswa said that before the attack he had received threats from certain local people who are alleged supporters of the previous councillor.

The locals said they must stop guarding the centre because it is not a municipal structure.

Rather, they said, it belongs to the community and the Community Properties Association, a local community structure that applied for return of land to local communities who had their land dispossessed by the apartheid regime.

Ward six councillor Jili said he was going to approach the municipality to put the community centre under its wing in order to ensure its protection from such attacks and to have it benefit the local community “as it is currently being vandalised because it’s not properly utilised by the local community”.

Police spokesperson Warrant Officer Joey Jeevan confirmed that a case of arson has been opened and no arrest had been made.

Police investigations are continuing.

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