News24

Mpuma cops arrest 79 rioters

2010-03-23 20:06

Johannesburg - Eighteen people were arrested for petrol-bombing two Mpumalanga councillors' houses on Tuesday, police said.

They were nabbed after a weekend of service delivery protests in the province, which saw 61 other people arrested for public violence and a police Casspir armoured personnel carrier burnt out.

The 18 were charged with public violence and malicious damage to property and expected to appear in the KwaMhlanga Magistrate's Court on Wednesday, police spokesperson Sergeant Nonhlanhla Kgosana said.

Kgosana said about 500 people petrol-bombed the house of councillor Peter Mokone around 02:00 on Tuesday, before setting councillor Michael Danisa's house on fire. Police airlifted both men and their families to a place of safety.

The residents, who accused Mokone of corruption and failing to deliver basic services such as water and housing, also barricaded the R573 between KwaMhlanga and Pretoria.

They petrol-bombed a church and a shop in the area and prevented pupils from going to schools.

Kgosana said the situation was under control on Tuesday afternoon and traffic was flowing without interruption on Moloto Road.

"The police are still patrolling the streets and the main road to avert another outbreak of violent clashes."

Councillors don't care

Police used rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, but no casualties were reported.

Local resident Joseph Masango, 33, said they would continue the protest until their demands were met. He said he applied for an RDP house three years back, but still did not have one.

Maria Ntuli, 45, an unemployed single mother of three, said they had been living without water for the past six weeks.

"Our councillor must resign because it clearly shows that he does not care about us, even though we elected him into power," she said.

Neither of the councillors could be reached as their phones were switched off.

The Casspir was burnt out when it was ambushed by residents in Ogies on Saturday.

Police spokesperson Captain Leonard Hlathi said it was irreparably damaged when it was "outrageously attacked" by locals hurling petrol bombs.

The 10 officers inside managed to escape.

Steel spikes

"They had to get out of the vehicle. By that time it had been bombed several times. If they didn't fight back and if they weren't assisted by reinforcements who came to help, we would have been talking about a different matter entirely.

"Nothing working remained in the vehicle. Only the steel hull remained."

Residents had apparently led it over an improvised spike strip hidden under branches to puncture its tyres.

"They do have puncture-proof tyres, but the spikes were too long."

Casspirs were used extensively during township unrest before the 1994 elections.

Twenty-nine of the 61 protesters arrested were caught in Leslie near Secunda after a municipal building and other property were burnt down.

Another 32 were arrested in the Ogies protest.