Give jobs, not empty promises, demand youth

2011-02-22 14:46

Wesselton councillors were giving jobs and tenders to their friends and neglecting the community, claimed young people outside the Ermelo Magistrates Court today.

The youngsters had gathered at the court to support a friend arrested in violent protests last week.

“When the councillors here are voted in, the first thing they do is move out of the township and into a house in Ermelo,” said a young man wearing a red T-shirt emblazoned with the image of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

“They send their children to the good schools and then they take care of their family and friends. They give them jobs at the municipality and tenders and all the business,” he claimed.

Violence broke out in Wesselton on February 14 when television visuals showed young people pelting the police and journalists with rocks.
The police were shown firing rubber bullets at the protesters.

Solomon Madonsela died during the riots. His body was found at The Acacia Café in Wesselton.

The police swooped on the township at the weekend, arresting dozens of men and women.

A group of 26 was to appear in the Ermelo Magistrates Court this afternoon on charges including public violence and theft.

The group, all aged between 19 and 21, said they were too afraid to give their names to journalists.

“We can’t give you our names,” one of the men, aged 20, said while leaning against a wall outside the court.

“They’ll come for us,” he said, refusing to elaborate, but lifting his T-shirt to expose bruised ribs.

“I was arrested last week,” he said. “I appeared in court on Monday. My mother had to borrow R200 from a loan shark to pay my bail. 

“The police came late at night. They kicked down the door of my house and they pulled me out. 

They beat all of us with sjamboks and their fists and with any weapon they could find. 

My shoulder was dislocated. They wouldn’t let any of us see our parents. They wanted us to make a statement, but we remained silent,” he said.

Mpumalanga police’s Captain Leonard Hlathi said any brutality alleged to have been inflicted by the police needed to be reported to the Independent Complaints Directorate (ICD).

“People have two options, one is to approach the ICD directly, which will then assist them to open a case or they can visit their nearest police station to open a case, which will then be referred to the ICD for investigation,” he said.

“It will never help the public or the community to refer their complaints to the media, rather they go to the relevant authorities to get effective or the necessary help,” Hlathi said.

One of the men, who is supported by his domestic-worker mother, opened a copy of the local newspaper, the Highveld Tribune, to the classified section and pointed at a municipal advertisement for a general worker.

According to the advert, the job paid R2 500 a month, and required basic literacy and physical fitness.

“All of us standing here passed matric in 2009,” one of the men said.

“We drop-off our CVs at the municipality, but we never get any reply. 

Then we hear that someone who has no qualifications and who is related to a councillor has been given a job. Sometimes people come out of jail and they get a job at the municipality. It’s not right. 

That’s why we are fighting.”

He said the ANC asked for their vote every election and that he joined the party after an ANC councillor promised to arrange a bursary for him to study law in 2008.

The man had since “vanished” and he was still “loitering on the streets”.

“Nothing improves. We share a hole in the ground as a toilet. 

The roads are fractured. We don’t have electricity. We are living in the dark,” he said.

Another youth asked why Police Commissioner General Bheki Cele sent his officers into the township.

“Why didn’t he come and ask us what was wrong? He could have talked to us and we could have told him our problems.

“We have matric, but we can’t get jobs, so that’s why the young people are committing crime. It’s why we are angry. 

Instead the police come at midnight and kick our doors in. 

They beat us and their dogs bite us. They tell us we are ‘s’boshwa’ (Zulu for prisoners).”

He said it was not the youth who had looted shops during the riots.

“Those people are thugs. They don’t care about our cause. They were using the opportunity to steal,” he said.

The young men said they would vote for an independent candidate as councillor in the coming local government elections.

“We know the one we will vote for. He is a teacher. He has money and he has a wife. He will try to improve things for us.”

Inside the court, Magistrate Catherine Hugo groaned when she heard more “public violence” arrestees were due to appear.

“Ah nuwes (ah, new ones),” she said.“This is terrible. I have no space to work. The people have no space to sit.

“Tell the gallery to keep quiet,” she snapped at the court translator. “I’m in a bad mood.”

Prosecutor Nomsa Linda said 26 “public violence” protesters were to appear this afternoon.

“The matter will be postponed for further investigation,” she said.

“I have to sum up the dockets and send them to the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.

“I will ask that the accused be given bail of R200.”

Wesselton was quiet on Tuesday afternoon. 

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