Four minors among 20 Wesselton residents arrested after violent protest

2012-12-06 14:45

Mpumalanga police have arrested 20 Wesselton township residents near Ermelo in connection with violent protests that erupted yesterday.

Four of the arrested people are minors with ages between 14 and 16, said provincial police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi.

“They have all been charged with public violence, malicious damage to property and theft of two firearms from security guards,” Hlathi said. He could not however, indicate when they would appear in court.

The residents went on a rampage yesterday morning when they complained about jobs, water and abuse by the police’s tactical response unit, known in township lingo as “amaberet”.

They lost their cool after learning that Msukaligwa Mayor Sipho Bongwe had allegedly instructed mines and other corporate companies operating in the area to stop dealing with a community structure about job opportunities and skills development.

Bongwe allegedly said the companies must only engage with the municipality’s local economic development unit.

The Msukaligwa Concerned Committee (MCC), formed after week-long protests last year February, had been liaising with the companies about the recruitment of local people.

The residents’ other complaints were that water supply had been erratic and that the police unit was heavy-handed – pouring liquor on residents found in drinking places and forcing them to do push-ups.

The protesters torched two vehicles belonging to security company Fidelity Guards and Spoornet, respectively.

“The security guards claimed that the protesters stole two firearms when they accosted them,” Hlathi said.

Msukaligwa spokesperson Mandla Zwane was not available to comment today.

Zwane confirmed yesterday that the municipality faced problems in supplying water because its dams had dried up.

He added that he would check if the allegations that Bongwe barred companies from cooperating with the MCC were true or not.

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