Eastern Cape Municipality requests military intervention to contain ongoing protest

2017-08-29 21:14
Road near Matatiele. (Matthew le Cordeur, News24)

Road near Matatiele. (Matthew le Cordeur, News24)

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Port Elizabeth – The Matatiele Municipality in the Eastern Cape on Tuesday requested the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to the area after protest action brought the rural community to a standstill.  

On Tuesday morning, local police arrested eight people in connection with public violence after Matatiele residents blocked several roads with burning tyres, set vehicles alight and barred children from going to school. 

The community is demanding that the town’s gravel roads be paved immediately, saying their condition is detrimental to the local trader economy.

In a statement, Matatiele municipal mayor Momelezi Mbedla said the SANDF was requested “to enhance law enforcement in the area”.

He said meetings are underway with traditional leaders, local representatives and provincial MECs to restore law and order to the community.

“The unrest currently under way in our town has somehow instilled fear and fretfulness among our people, and that is understandable. However, we want to ensure everyone that their safety will remain a key priority for us under these circumstances,” Mbedla said. 

Matatiele cluster police spokesperson Raphael Motloung said all business activity in the town was halted on Tuesday afternoon. 

He said the situation remains “tense.” No injuries have been reported. 

SANDF spokesperson Mafi Mgobhozi said a request for military deployment had been received, but no military personnel were making their way to the area. Mgobhozi did not provide a reason.

GroundUp reported that residents are specifically demanding that the roads between Matatiele and the border between South Africa and Lesotho be paved as traders travel from Lesotho to Matatiele to sell goods. 

Residents are additionally demanding that clean water be supplied to communities. In certain cases, community members share dirty water with animals, taps don’t work and boreholes have been out of order for months. 

Census 2011 found that 12.2% of people in Matatiele had piped water, 10.4% a flush toilet and 44.9% electricity. 

The town has an unemployment rate of 38.7% and a Youth Unemployment rate of 47.2%.

Read more on:    east london  |  service delivery

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