Mpumalanga protesters blame lack of electricity for children's deaths

2016-04-28 16:06
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Mbombela - Just hours after Freedom Day celebrations on Wednesday, people went on the rampage along the N4 outside Mpumalanga's capital city, blockading roads to demand electricity and other services.

Matsulu residents blocked the entrance to the township and three villages with burning tyres, preventing all vehicles from entering or exiting.

The protest started after 22:00 on Wednesday and was continuing on Thursday.

"Our community has experienced a number of deaths of children and elderly people because of izinyoka-nyoka (people who connect electricity illegally). This happened only because the Mbombela local municipality has not been providing us with services, including electricity," said Lahlekile Mkhonto, the protest leader for Khutsong village.

Residents of Khutsong, Marikana, and Emathuneni villages, near Matsulu, cut down five trees with chainsaws and set them alight in full view of police officers.

Motorists were warned against using shortcuts to town, via the Mthethomusha Game Reserve road. Police managed to escort a few motorists out of Matsulu.

Police officers on the scene told News24 correspondents that they could not stop the protesters from chopping down trees because they had armed bodyguards.

Mbombela Mayor Sbusiso Mathonsi arrived on the scene in his black Audi SUV to address the protesters, who were chanting anti-apartheid slogans.

More than 20 women blocking the roads said they were tired, and told Mathonsi they wanted to speak to Premier David Mabuza.

"We don't want the mayor here. We want the local chief, the premier and (President Jacob) Zuma.

"Since last year, three schoolchildren died while six cows and one goat were all burnt to death because of the izinyoka-nyoka. Three houses burnt down because of faulty electrical lines in Khutsong, Marikana, and Emathuneni," said one of the women, who asked not to be identified.

Another resident, Gracious Mgwenya, said police had claimed Mabuza was in Johannesburg.

"How can the premier be in Joburg when there are a number of budget speeches being presented in the legislature today? Mabuza has already taken five baths since this morning, but we have been without water for days. As we speak, we have not bathed in days," she said.

Hudson Ngomane said things had been difficult after his five-year-old son was electrocuted.

"I have been using sleeping pills since my son died, because I can't sleep. I can't take it when people call me by my surname because it makes me remember that I have lost an heir," he said.

Local ward councillor Maria Mashele refused to comment, saying only the mayor could do so.

Mathonsi pleaded with residents to take responsibility for the deaths due to illegal electrical connections.

"We cannot encourage people to do illegal connections and to also live in an informal place. However, we have to give them the support that they need," said Mathonsi.

Mathonsi said the provincial government had budgeted in the current financial year to formalise informal settlements so they could be serviced.

Read more on:    mbombela  |  protests  |  crime

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