Violent clashes in Ficksburg

Violence broke out in Meqheleng township in the Free State this morning when a mob of teenagers attempted to march into Ficksburg.

The township came to a standstill, with learners and workers staying at home to attend a mass meeting called by the Meqheleng Concerned Citizens after permission to march to the Setsoto local municipality offices in town was turned down.

The meeting had been called to give feedback to the community on progress made by a provincial task team appointed by the provincial government earlier this month to investigate issues of service delivery in the municipality.

Thousands of residents gathered at the Home Affairs building in the township this morning waiting to be addressed by Meqheleng Concerned Citizens officials.

However, hundreds of teenagers broke away from the main group and marched in the direction of the town – where they were confronted by police manning an intersection separating the township from the town.

Police fired tear gas at the teenagers, who scattered into a nearby industrial area and houses situated at the edge of the township. Calm was restored after almost an hour of running battles.

The meeting was later addressed by MEC for sport, Dan Kgothule, and head of department in the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, Kopung Ralikontsane, who are part of the task team investigating the municipality.

Ralikontsane, who heads the task team, announced that four municipal officials had been suspended and put “on precautionary leave following evidence that they had neglected their duties”.

The suspended officials are the chief financial officer, Cassius Mabuya, Fiona Viljoen of planning and infrastructure, Moleko Madihlare of technical services and Thato Khoase of community economic development and corporate services.

Teenagers went on the rampage after the meeting, pelting police with stones and erecting barricades with rocks, iron bars and burning tyres. This led to raging battles in the streets of the township that lasted well after midday. Police fired tear gas and arrested an unconfirmed number of people.

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