‘Why we burnt the Siyathemba library’

2010-02-21 09:53

THE ­library in Balfour’s Siyathemba township in Mpumalanga went up in flames in order to get the ­government’s ­attention.

“Bekumele ishe lento (This thing had to burn),” said a 20-year-old ­local resident.

He was one of the stick-wielding looters and youngsters who went on the rampage earlier this month and burned down the library.

On Thursday, the spate of violent protests accompanied by the ­ominous smells of burning tyres and gunpowder and the popping sound of rubber bullets had subsided.

Although the situation was still tense, residents seemed upbeat about the pending visit by a high-level delegation led by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka.

Driving through the township from the main entrance to the eastern section called Baghdad ­demands a patient and skilled ­driver because of the many potholes, rubble and ash from burnt tyres on the streets.

In Baghdad, young men who were allegedly at the forefront of the ­recent protests were playing football on the streets.

The section is ­famous for having the most “radical” and “militant” youngsters.

The 20-year-old resident we spoke to said that an attempt to torch the library during the day failed and they had to meet secretly during the night to restrategise for the ­final ­attempt. “We met during the night because amaphoyisa (police) were looking for us,” said the ­young man before he requested a cigarette from this reporter.

He said they bought two 25-litre containers of petrol for making petrol bombs.

“We had to do it, my chief. These people (government) don’t listen to us. We had to show them that we mean business” he said.

“Our main targets were government properties.”

These properties included the ­Siyathemba Multipurpose Centre that houses the offices of the ­department of home affairs, the ­local clinic and the satellite police station, which had already been ­destroyed.

The young man added that he was a proud xenophobe who had a problem with foreigners because they “sell drugs”.“Yibo labantu esiqala ngabo (These are the people we first deal with),” he said.

“Asibafuni labantu la elokshini (We don’t want them here in the township).”

Two more 20-year-old men, who matriculated last year, complained that the library had nothing but old books and only two computers without Internet access.

“That thing was just useless; it had to burn,” they said.

According to the pair, burning down the library sent a clear message to government.

They said another spate of violent protests was on the cards if the ­government failed to address their issues.

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