Siyabuswa residents shut down schools, municipality following suspension of manager

2019-07-17 18:23
Police officers remove barricades from a road in Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga (Balise Mabona, News24)

Police officers remove barricades from a road in Siyabuswa in Mpumalanga (Balise Mabona, News24)

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Schools and the offices of the Dr JS Moroka Local Municipality have been closed in Siyabuswa, Mpumalanga, after residents embarked on a protest against the suspension of the municipal manager, Thami Kubheka.

The executive mayor of the municipality, Thulare Madileng, told News24 on Wednesday that Kubheka was placed on precautionary suspension on July 12 pending an investigation into allegations of corruption levelled against him. He said the residents have been on the rampage since Monday and blocked all municipality employees from entering the premises.

"The allegations against the municipal manager affect service delivery and this matter is sub judice [subject of an on-going legal process]," said Madileng.

"People are falsely being told that I protect corruption while the municipal manager is fighting it. Schools and roads have been closed. We are willing to go to work but we are also worried about our safety."

Madileng said Kubheka was appointed as municipal manager on March 1.

He appealed to residents to open the gates of the municipality so that its employees could report for duty and deliver basic services to the community.

When News24 arrived in Siyabuswa on Wednesday afternoon, sporadic gunfire was heard as the police fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds of protesters on some streets.

A number of shops were closed, while roads leading to the premises of the municipality were barricaded with rocks and burning tyres. There were no taxis on the streets and major roads, including the R573 that links the area with Pretoria. 

Siyabuswa police spokesperson Captain Sphiwe Phaladi told News24 some protesters had tried to force their way into a local shopping mall, but the police had stopped them.

"The situation is still tense and no arrests have been made," said Phaladi.

Several residents insisted that Kubheka was suspended because he was fighting corruption in the municipality, while others expressed disappointment at not being able to travel to work.

"It worries me to sit at home while I have a job," said resident Nomvula Mthimunye.

Another resident, Goodman Mbonani, said: "The fact that Kubheka was suspended for alleged corruption less than a year after he was appointed shows that there are people who want him out of his job."

Kubheka could not immediately be reached for comment.

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