Bekkersdal violence not the way - SACC

2013-10-28 09:04
People take part in a protest in Bekkersdal. (<a href=\\\\\\\\><b>Theresa Taylor</b></a>, Twitter)

People take part in a protest in Bekkersdal. (Theresa Taylor, Twitter)

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Johannesburg - Violent protests in Bekkersdal were not the right way of expressing grievances, the SA Council of Churches (SACC) in Gauteng said on Sunday.

"The SACC Gauteng appeals for calm in the Bekkersdal area," provincial secretary Gift Moerane said in a statement.

The township has been plagued by violent protests with residents demanding the removal of their mayor.

The protests have seen government properties being vandalised and pupils being taken out of schools.

While the SACC acknowledged that residents had every democratic right to stage protests when they felt aggrieved, they needed to guard against agent provocateurs within their ranks.

"Since the outbreak of violent protests, we witnessed an increase of destruction of property and looting of shops," said Moerane.

"We consider these to be grossly irresponsible criminal acts which will multiply almost all of the present difficulties as well as causing extreme poverty, epidemics and economic under-development."

Foreign-owned shops looted

The SACC urged all leaders and participants in the protests to take a stand against the violation of human rights and dignity.

"Protesting against lack of essential services is one thing but hurting other people and destroying property is another thing," Moerane said.

The SACC in Gauteng also strongly condemned the looting of foreign-owned shops.

"We call on the political leaders to urgently attend to the grievances of the residents and restore the rule of law," said Moerane.

Earlier on Sunday, protest action in Bekkersdal had been put on hold to allow government time to investigate the residents' grievances, community leaders said.

"We are suspending the protests and allowing schooling to continue and for the situation to return to normal in Bekkersdal," community leader Thabang Wesi told Sapa.

On Sunday, roads were barricaded with rocks and burning tree stumps.

Task teams formed

Wesi said on Sunday community leaders met with members of the tripartite alliance and reached an agreement to allow investigations launched by the Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Minister Lechesa Tsenoli.

"The investigations will start tomorrow [Monday] and on 3 November we will be meeting the minister and the MEC of Human Settlements and Local Government in Gauteng Ntombi Mekgwe," he said.

It was agreed that a national and provincial task team would with immediate effect develop and formulate service delivery interventions.

He said residents would be given feedback on Monday regarding the interactions that took place on Sunday, and what the future held for the disgruntled township.

Mokonyane: I will not run away

Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, visiting the area on Sunday, vowed not to be intimidated by Bekkersdal's protesting residents. She said she would never run away from anything.

"I will not run away from our people when they have a crisis."

Mokonyane said government would not be held to ransom.

The premier had heard a story where residents were demanding the release of people who were arrested during the protests, otherwise looting would continue in the area.

"They are undermining the rights of our people. We won't tolerate [this] undermining of the law," she said.

Mokonyane also slammed the residents for disrupting church services in the area, which was never seen even during the apartheid era. "Churches were our sanctuaries," she said.

Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said on Sunday police had intensified their deployment in Bekkersdal to maintain law and order.

The township was quiet late on Sunday evening but there was still a heavy police presence in the area.
Read more on:    johannesburg ­  |  service delivery protests

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