At least six families of ANC councillors in Khuma township outside Stilfontein, North West, will go to sleep homeless after their houses were razed by flames during a violent service delivery protest.
Khuma is part of the Matlosana Local Municipality.
As Premier Job Mokgoro arrived in a police Nyala on Tuesday to address the angry community, houses were still being destroyed by raging fires.
The houses were allegedly torched by angry protesters during a protest that began in the old mining township on Monday and escalated on Tuesday.
A community leader, Thembile Botman, told City Press the “community members appeared to have been angered after being shot with rubber bullets by the police and turned to the councillors’ houses”.
“The situation was veering out of control and at some point we asked police senior officials to send officers to surround houses that were not yet attacked and it seems they went there only to evacuate the people, leaving the properties exposed.”
Eight houses were torched – six belonging to the councillors, one of a municipal worker and the other of a community member.
“We condemn the torching of properties of community leaders, as ours was a peaceful protest,” he said.
Mokgoro’s spokesperson, Vuyisile Ngesi, confirmed that the premier and MECs for local government and community safety – Gordon Kegakilwe and Sello Lehari – were driven into the township under heavy police guard.
The trio had been part of a meeting with the National Council of Provinces at nearby Orkney when the violence erupted.
“The premier heard of the protest that began on Sunday and decided to drop everything and go address the community after a report came in on how the situation had spiralled out of control. We strongly condemn the acts of arson which is nothing but criminality. The premier has promised to attend to the community’s grievances of service delivery,” Ngesi said.
“He promised to add Khuma’s issues to the executive committee meeting tomorrow, especially after realising that some of their grievances are not within the municipality’s competency. The premier will then also meet the community again tomorrow.”
Ngesi said one of the issues was for land to be made available for the community for housing.
“This is a mining area and there are issues of dolomite. A team has been activated to come and assess if the land is not dolomitic before a decision is taken on it,” he said.
Ngesi added that the Matlosana municipality was arranging alternative accommodation for the families whose homes were torched.
Meanwhile, Botman said the township had experienced “no form of service delivery since the dawn of democracy”.
“We’re part of a mining town and when mining companies closed shop, most people were left without jobs and had to leave mining accommodation. The area was plunged into despair in the backdrop of high unemployment, a lack of facilities for sports, arts and recreation which led to a high crime rate and drug abuse,” he said.
“Communication has also been very weak between the community, councillors and the municipality which never responded even after we raised our grievances on numerous occasions.”
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone, has confirmed that seven houses were torched.
“Allegedly, members of the community are protesting in demand for feedback of the memorandum they recently handed to the municipality. According to information received, seven houses were burnt today, a case of public violence has been opened for investigation and no arrest has been affected.”
. This article was updated to correct the number of houses torched.