Police stay on guard for protests

2012-03-23 18:00
Johannesburg - Mpumalanga police maintained a presence on Friday at Phola, near Ogies, where protests over jobs erupted earlier in the week.

"The police will not leave the area even if the protests subside," said police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Hlathi. "We will leave when we are content that nothing else will happen in the area."

Everything was calm on Friday, he said.

On Tuesday, protesters set alight a minibus belonging to a private company in Phola. Hlathi said schools and health facilities in the community were closed down as a result.

He said 36 people had been arrested for public violence.


The Democratic Alliance accused police of being passive towards protesters instead of acting timeously to prevent protest action from turning violent.

"Motorists told the DA that there were pitifully few police in attendance to contain the situation [in Ogies], and those that were present, were idly standing by with little intervention," DA spokesperson in Mpumalanga Anthony Benadie said in a statement.

"In most instances, the SAPS do not take proactive steps to prevent violence from erupting, but sit idly waiting for protesters to 'do something wrong' before acting, and then often find themselves understaffed and under-resourced to deal with the situation."

Benadie urged provincial commissioner Lieutenant General Thulani Ntombela to revise the current strategy of deploying officers.

Hlathi disputed the DA's claims.


"We have seen a number of protests that erupted in the province for a long time - all of these protests were controlled by the police," he said.

"The DA must work to encourage the police and not to discourage the community." Hlathi said the police in the area had not failed in dealing with protests.

In Gauteng, police said they remained on guard in Ratanda, Evaton and Sharpeville after violent service delivery protests hit the areas on Monday.

Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the situation was calm on Friday.

"We will continue to monitor the areas until we are convinced that the situation is back to normal," he said.

110 arrested

On Monday, a total of 110 protesters were arrested, of whom 17 were juveniles.

Dlamini said roads were blockaded and police were pelted with stones and petrol bombs. Several public buildings and private homes had been burned down, and small businesses in Ratanda had been looted.

Those arrested had been charged with housebreaking, malicious damage to property, possession of suspected stolen property, theft, assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm and public violence.

Thaahla village, about 85km from Groblersdal in Limpopo, was quiet on Friday afternoon after a protest turned violent, police said.

"Police will monitor the area until we are satisfied that everything is back to normal," said Lieutenant Colonel Mohale Ramatseba.

On Thursday, nine people were arrested for public violence after protesters broke windows and damaged private property.

The protest began late on Wednesday evening and carried on into the early hours of Thursday morning.

Ramatseba said the protest was reportedly about lack of water services in the area.

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