Thirty nabbed for violent protests

2013-06-26 17:18

Mpumalanga police have arrested more than 30 residents of Kwazamokuhle near Hendrina after they staged violent service delivery protests since Sunday.

The residents torched a library, community hall, clinic, a police reporting point and a bus and vandalised an old age home and a bus after a meeting they had with Steve Tshwete local municipality (Middelburg) mayor Mike Masina.

Provincial police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi said that shops belonging to foreign nationals were also looted.

“We’ve deployed police to monitor the situation. The MEC (for safety and security Vusi Shongwe) is also meeting the community today,” Hlathi said.

The residents snapped after Masina allegedly remarked that they were “uncivilised” and “illiterate”.

Masina also allegedly said that the residents’ memorandum of grievances was written in “broken English”.

They were meeting Masinga to raise concerns about a lack of jobs, the employment of “outsiders”, upgrading of the local clinic, slow delivery of RDP houses and the police station that is not operating 24 hours.

Steve Tshwete municipal manager Willie Fouche has dismissed the accusations against Masina as “rubbish”.

Hlathi said police had arrested no one in Wesselton township near Ermelo where residents who were invading Msukaligwa municipal land were infuriated when the municipality unleashed the Red Ants to remove them.

The residents tried to burn a house belonging to councillor Mavela Mhlanga. Hlathi said the house was saved when his burning Hyundai sedan was removed from the garage.

“We’ve also deployed police there to monitor the situation,” he said.

The township has become very unstable since 2011. More than ten service delivery protests have been staged against a lack of water, electricity outages, alleged nepotism in the Msukaligwa local municipality and unemployment.

The local business community has called for the municipality to be placed under administration to address its management weaknesses.

According to Municipal IQ – an independent local government data and intelligence service – 61 service delivery protests have taken place in the country between January and May this year.

Mpumalanga province accounts for 10% of these. Last year there were 173 protest in all nine provinces, which is the highest number in a single year since 2004.

“While protests in 2013 are unfolding at a slower pace than they did over the same period in 2012, most continue to be violent and municipalities and police need to work with community members to promote constructive channelling of grievances in orderly protest action that does not compromise other citizens,” said Municipal IQ managing director Kevin Allan.

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