Residents in Free State town protest over unemployment: 'We are sick and tired of sitting at home'

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Virginia residents march against unemployment (Supplied)
Virginia residents march against unemployment (Supplied)
  • Some residents protested in Virginia in the Free State on Tuesday.
  • They were concerned about the high rate of unemployment in the area.
  • The largest employer in the Lejweleputswa district has a workforce of over 800 people.

Angry residents protested on Tuesday afternoon, mainly over the unemployment rate in the Virginia region of the Free State.

They promised there would be no looting, but said no one was allowed to enter or leave the area.

Free State police said there were no reported incidents.

Resident Sekete Maqhosha alleged that the high employment rate in the gold mining town was caused by corruption in mining companies.

READ | Elections 2021: Ramaphosa met by protesting residents while on campaign trail in Tembisa

"We are concerned that there is a lot of corruption, especially at Sibanye and Harmony," he said.

"Most of the people employed by these companies are people who have money to bribe, so they can get the jobs."

Residents resorted to a protest in the hope of being heard.

Maqhosha said only ambulances were allowed to enter the area during the shutdown.

"There will be no looting, but no one will enter or leave Virginia. We are sick and tired of sitting at home," he said.

Virginia residents march against unemployment (Supplied)

Mining company Sibanye-Stillwater said there had been threats by some sections of the community, who are operating outside of existing long-standing community structures, and had only recently emerged purporting to represent communities and threatening to shut down the operations. 

"Beatrix is one of the largest employers in the Lejweleputswa district, with a workforce of over 800 people," Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said.

The company added that it was happy to engage at any time with credible community organisations through established structures and channels.

"In addition, further job opportunities are created through learnerships and cadet programmes, and also with SMMEs, who employ locals as a result of business opportunities provided by the company."

However, Maqhosha said he had yet to see these job opportunities, adding that they were normally awarded to people coming from other provinces.

Harmony spokesperson Sihle Maake told News24 that they were not aware of the shutdown, but there were set forums that run consistent engagements with the community.

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