SEE | Housing dept building set alight as protesting continues at four Eastern Cape municipalities

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Hundreds of angry protesters shut down Makhanda this week over poor service delivery.
Hundreds of angry protesters shut down Makhanda this week over poor service delivery.
Tsepiso Nzayo
  • The ANC in the Eastern Cape has condemned violent protests that are gripping parts of the province.
  • Protesting taxi drivers in Gqeberha have moved to Dan Qeqe Stadium in Kwa Zakhele for a meeting.
  • Eastern Cape police have deployed a 20 000-litre water cannon and Public Order Police to break up riots in Makhanda.

Angry protesters set fire to the Makana municipality's housing department, a post office and the town's City Hall during a third day of riots in Makhanda on Wednesday.

The protest action prompted authorities in the university town to shut down public schools, Rhodes University and numerous businesses. 

Protests in four municipalities - the Makana Local Municipality in Makhanda, the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro in Gqeberha, the Amahlathi Local Municipality in Stutterheim and the Intsika Yethu Local Municipality in Cofimvaba - gripped parts of the province.

In Makhanda and Cofimvaba, residents are protesting against poor service delivery. 

The Makana Municipalitys housing department was se
The Makana Municipalitys housing department was set alight by angry protesters on Wednesday.

n Gqeberha, taxi drivers are fighting with taxi owners over Covid-19 relief funds, and in Stutterheim, residents are demanding the release of two men who were arrested for allegedly killing two suspected criminals in a mob justice attack.

The ANC in the province has condemned the protest action and has called on the municipalities to address issues residents have raised.

When News24 visited Makhanda on Wednesday, children could be seen playing in the streets while young men were enjoying beers outside of their homes. 

On Tuesday, the municipal cleansing department was petrol bombed. Police are probing an arson case.

READ | Makhanda potholes protests: N2 highway shut, dept petrol bombed, public schools closed

On Wednesday, morning blazes were reported at the Siphiwo Mazwayi Post Office, City Hall entrance and housing department, but they were quickly put out and extensive damage was prevented.

Police spokesperson Priscila Naidu said no cases were opened.

Plumes of black smoke from burning tyres could be seen in Makhanda, from as far as the N2 highway in the direction of Qonce.

Eastern Cape police are on high alert because Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha is on his way to Makhanda. Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane has sent him to broker peace. Nqatha and a delegation from the provincial head office in Bhisho, is expected to meet Makana Mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa to come up with a plan to address the challenges that sparked the protests.

The protest action over the bad state of roads, including massive potholes, as well as sewerage, water scarcity and a lack of ablution facilities at the vandalised taxi rank are some of the concerns disgruntled residents have raised. 

Eastern Cape police spokesperson Brigadier Thembinkosi Kinana said police management reinforced the deployment of Public Order Police to restore law and order. 

Kinana added that the police also dispatched a 20 000-litre water cannon and riot police.

protest
Hundreds of angry protesters shut down Makhanda this week over poor service delivery.

"Our police will continue to maintain a strong presence until we are satisfied that peace and stability prevails in those areas," he said.

Police management has also expressed shock and concern about incidents of vandalism, looting and damage to property during the protests.

"The right of the people to protest as enshrined in the Constitution is highly respected. However, if this right is misdirected into violating the rights of others, the police will not hesitate to enforce the law," Kinana added.

The DA in the Eastern Cape has called on the Makana municipality to reconsider appealing a January 2020 court judgment on the dissolution of the council. The matter is being challenged by the ANC provincial government and is still before court.

ALSO READ | Protest over loss of electricity supply brings Cape Town traffic to standstill

"All of this could have been avoided had the premier and his executive accepted the High Court ruling that found the municipality had failed dismally in its executive duties to deliver the most basic of services to its people, and needed to be dissolved," said DA MPL Vicky Knoetze.  

Knoetze added that, instead, the province decided to appeal the decision, most likely out of fear that a precedent would be set, and residents of other failed ANC municipalities in the province would also have their day in court.

ANC provincial secretary Xolile Nqatha did not respond to Knoetze's comments but said: "Our position is clear: that we respect the right of citizens to protest peacefully as enshrined in the Constitution, but violent forms of protests that threaten lives and bring destruction to property are unacceptable. Law enforcement agencies must be decisive to perpetrators of these crimes and must face the full might of the law."

Gqeberha police said taxi driver protests subsided a bit ahead of a taxi industry meeting.

"Protests resumed early this morning and various roads in the metro were blocked by burning tyres and barricading roads, but action has since seized down a little bit and all taxis have moved to Dan Qeqe stadium in KwaZakhele to have a meeting, and we are currently waiting for the outcomes of the meeting," said Captain Andre Beegte.

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