North West capital Mahikeng was on a knife edge on Thursday amid rising calls to unseat embattled North West premier Supra Mahumapelo.
Shops were closed and streets blockaded with burning objects as the calls for Mahumapelo to step down mount.
A group of youngsters armed with rocks and sticks barricaded Nelson Mandela Drive, linking the North West capital and Botswana, with burning objects littering the road.
“We do not talk to media, go and talk to Supra, we do not want Supra and his cabinet,” said one man from the group.
On the same road, about 10 kilometres away, a truck trailer was torched and youngsters were also piling burning tyres on the road.
Elsewhere, a police armoured vehicle (nyala) was petrolbombed in Danville near the capital, while in Dibate near Mmabatho, a group of youngsters looted tuck shops and police resorted to firing rubber bullets.
Protesters, who were aggressive to the media, said they want Mahumapelo to resign as the premier of North West.
The protest started on Wednesday in Montshioa, where a bus was torched. This was apparently sparked by the deaths of two people at the Montshioa Stad Clinic, after they reportedly did not get help due to the ongoing strike by nursing staff.
Members of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) have been on strike since February 26, demanding the dismissal of head of the health department Dr Thabo Lekalakala, the termination of contracted companies by the department, bonus payments, the payment of occupation specific dispensation (OSD) for employees at provincial offices and increases of Community Health Workers salaries.
North West Community Safety and Transport Management MEC Dr Mpho Motlhabane appealed for calm.
“We have observed that there are certain individuals who are taking advantage of the current situation to commit crime. We are appealing to communities to stay away from these illegal protests to avoid finding themselves on the wrong side of the law.
“While citizens do have the right to protest, that must be done peacefully, within the framework of the law and not to loot from shops as well as damaging of private properties.”
He appealed to residents to stay in their houses and ensure that children were also in safe places to avoid unnecessary injuries and attacks.
“Let us remain in our houses for safety and avoid going to volatile areas because your safety will be compromised,” he said.
North West police said nine people were arrested for public violence on Wednesday night.
“The suspects were arrested in Montshioa and surrounding villages respectively for public violence and malicious damage to property. They are expected to appear in the Mmabatho Magistrates’ Court soon,” said Lieutenant-Colonel Adele Myburgh.
“Yesterday [Wednesday], after the police had managed to calm the situation, violence erupted in the evening in Unit 9, Unit 13 and Unit 14. It was during the night that a truck trailer was torched in Moshawane village outside Mahikeng, while a vehicle and a truck were set alight separately along Mahikeng-Vryburg Road. There were also incidents of looting that were reported in areas such as Lomanyaneng, Montshioa and Mmabatho,” she said.
– African News Agency (ANA)