Storms dampen Limpopo protests

2014-01-31 12:44
People on the road to Relela before the rains chased them away. (Marietie Louw, Beeld)

People on the road to Relela before the rains chased them away. (Marietie Louw, Beeld)

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Tzaneen - Stormy weather halted protests by residents at Relela and Kubjana villages in Limpopo on Friday morning.

A Sapa correspondent reported that heavy rain and wind forced protesters off the streets.

The police continued to keep watch in the area near Tzaneen, where three people were killed, allegedly by police, since protests started about a week ago.

Several people, including a pregnant woman, have been arrested for public violence.

Commuters remained stranded on Friday morning, with no taxis running to the villages.

Earlier on Friday, protesters blocked roads and demanded entry fees to Relela and Kubjana villages.

Village ‘pay stations’

A Sapa correspondent came across at least four "pay stations" operated by protesters.

Roads leading into the villages outside Tzaneen were blocked with burning tyres and vandalised stop-sign boards.

The protesters manning these road blocks claimed they were collecting funds to help the four grieving families whose relatives died in protests that started about a week ago.

Groups of between five and 10 protesters were manning the "pay stations" and demanding R5 entry fees for cars, and R10 from loaded bakkies, in full view of the police.

Most people paid the "entry fees". Those who did not pay were forced to turn around.

Police at one stage aimed at the protesters to fire rubber bullets, but the protesters screamed at the officers and the police backed off, a Sapa correspondent reported.

Villagers working outside the two villages were forced to walk long distances as taxi operators refused to drive through the area.

‘You can’t move in those areas’

Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi confirmed that roads were blocked in and around the villages, saying mainly police Nyalas were driving around.

"You cannot move in those areas - even taxis are not operating," said Mulaudzi.

He warned residents to be cautious at all times.

"We are working around the clock to bring normality in the areas. We are continuing to deploy members."

He said they were monitoring the areas with the help of Mpumalanga police.

"The situation is calm for now. They [protesters] normally start in the afternoon," he said before 07:00.

On Thursday, residents of Kubjana village near Relela torched the property of a local businessman after the body of a child and two other unharmed children were found in his car.

They had also clashed with police and stoned them.

The protests began after a schoolgirl from Relela, Khomotso Raolane, 15, was found murdered and mutilated in Mandlakazi, near Letsitele, on 24 January.

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