Chaos in Atteridgeville as protests over mayoral candidate Didiza continue

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Police helicopters hover above black smoke billowing from a burning bakery truck and a bus, streets have been barricaded, motorists are being intimidated and hostilities escalate.

It’s chaos in Atteridgeville, which is part of the trouble-torn Tshwane metro municipality. 

The protests that broke out yesterday are believed to have been sparked by the ANC’s announcement of Thoko Didiza as mayoral candidate.

More than 20 buses were torched in Mamelodi last night and municipal property, including vehicles, was damaged. There were no bus services in the area this morning leaving thousands of commuters stranded.

Parts of Hammanskraal and northern townships of Tshwane were also affected with burning tyres and blockaded roads this morning, but the chaos was largely concentrated in Atteridgeville, where roads leading into and out of the township were blockaded and motorists were intimidated. A few vehicles were pelted with stones.

The situation remained volatile inside Atteridgeville, which was covered in black smoke from burning tyres. People could be seen walking out of the township and down WF Nkomo Street as they made their way to work this morning in the absence of taxis – which also did not escape intimidation.

Several foreign-owned tuckshops were reportedly damaged and looted last night. 

Political infighting within the ANC has been blamed for the violence.

The ANC decided to bring in a compromise mayoral candidate – Didiza – rather than nominate the incumbent mayor and ANC regional chairperson Kgosientso Ramokgopa or his deputy Mapiti Matsena. The two have been blamed for leading factions that were divided on who should lead the municipality.

The ANC calls for calm 

“We will report to our branches on this decision and for them to rally behind the resolution. The robust nature of our candidate selection process provides an opportunity for members of our organisation to voice their displeasure,” the party said yesterday.

“Once decisions are taken it is ultimately incumbent on all our members to close ranks, and in this case support and rally behind Comrade Thoko Didiza and all our councillor candidates as they lead us to a decisive and overwhelming victory of the ANC on August 3.”

Meanwhile, Ramokgopa, Mapiti and Didiza have strongly condemned the violence and have called for ANC members to respect the party’s decision. Ramokgopa, whose house remained under police guard in Atteridgeville, said he was planning to visit his own township and other hotspots in a bid to quell the fires.

Atteridgeville remains tense

Two men walking out of Atteridgeville earlier this morning said protesters were planning to burn trains at Kalafong train station. A bus was set alight close to Kalafong hospital while a bakery truck was also still on flames nearby on WF Nkomo road.

Yesterday a metro police vehicle was overturned in Tshwane. The situationescalated and spread to surrounding townships.

On Sunday an ANC member was killed in Pretoria when a shooting broke out between two party factions outside a building where the Tshwane mayoral selection process was under way.

Police comment

Police have said that cases of murder, malicious damage to property and intimidation had been opened.

Gauteng provincial commissioner, General Deliwe de Lange, said anyone found committing a crime would be arrested immediately.

All members of the police, including those on rest days, had been mobilised to assist in Tshwane.

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