3 Samwu members arrested during Mangaung city hall clash

2017-06-22 11:07
Firefighters attempting to kill the fire at the Bloemfontein City Hall. (Mlungisi Louw, Netwerk24)

Firefighters attempting to kill the fire at the Bloemfontein City Hall. (Mlungisi Louw, Netwerk24)

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Bloemfontein - Three SA Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu) members were arrested during a clash with police which saw the Mangaung city hall building set alight on Wednesday night, police said.

Spokesperson Brigadier Sam Makhele said they were arrested for public violence during the course of the clashes, not for the fire.

Makhele said about 200 people gathered outside the city hall, and allegedly started throwing stones at the police who were monitoring them.

Police released stun grenades to disperse the gathering and in tumult four private vehicles were damaged.

Samwu provincial chairperson Congo Matshepe said the union could not confirm that Wednesday night's fire was started by its members, but planned to meet later in the day to take stock of the shocking turn of events.

Matshepe stressed that the workers were not on strike because there was a court interdict suspending their labour action, but had in fact gathered on the steps of the city hall to be briefed.

"The police shot at workers when they were standing outside the city hall," he claimed.

"Everybody was running from being shot. After being dispersed by police, they realised there was a fire."

He said the first they knew of the fire was when they returned to their vehicles in the parking lot and saw the flames.

Mangaung Metro spokesperson Qondile Khedama said the fire was a setback for the city.

"If there is anything left, it will be a very small portion,'' he said of the sandstone building with its tall pillars.

(Mlungisi Louw, Netwerk24)

According to SA History Online it was designed by Sir Gordon Leith and built in 1935.

The building kept documents, housed wellness services, an Independent Electoral Commission office, and held many historical paintings and artefacts.

It was too early to blame anybody, but the Metro said it would work with police on the matter after the arrests.

"We do not want to speculate at this stage. We will wait for a report from the SA Police Service,'' said Khedama.

He urged city hall employees to report for work.

Read more on:    bloemfontein  |  fires  |  crime  |  local government

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