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By Chisom Jenniffer Okoye


Cele faces wrath of Blybank residents over jobs, money

Cele was there to launch a reaction team after nine people were killed and 60 houses burnt by striking mineworkers, but got a hot reception.

Minister of Police Bheki Cele received a less than warm reception in Blybank on the West Rand yesterday, with angry residents yelling they needed jobs and money instead of the newly deployed police team in their community.

The minister and national police commissioner Khehla Sitole launched the crime combatting and reaction team in the township yesterday. It will deal with hostile acts by striking mineworkers.

According the Cele, based on meetings with community leaders and two workers’ unions, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), and reports that about 60 houses had been burned and nine lives lost, it was decided to deploy the team.

While the police units being deployed into the area paraded at Blybank sportsground, residents watched from afar.

After the parade Cele asked why they had not taken part in the ceremony. A few thanked him for the deployment, but many were enraged and shouted “ngifuna imali!” (I want money).

A house that was set alight at Blybank on the West Rand during a protracted labour related strike by mine workers in Merafong Local Municipality and surrounding areas, 3 April 2019. Picture:Nigel Sibanda

Some even grabbed the microphone from him to vent their frustration at not having jobs for the past five months due to the strike. Others hinted they had been afraid to attend the ceremony.

Cele said: “Basically the conflict here is about labour issues. It’s Amcu and NUM not seeing eye to eye when it comes to their engagement with management.”

He added that he had a meeting with the presidents of both unions and they had decided they wanted peace in the community. However, he said that Amcu had made a request the police could not agree to.

“Amcu said we must not include the people who have been displaced here. As government we cannot agree to that. We are here to say everyone who wants to come back will be protected.

“We are working with the council to ensure that as people come back, their houses are put back in shape.”

He confirmed that arrests had been made, but the few who got bail had caused more havoc in the community. He cited four individuals in this regard.

He said: “We have made a call to the leadership and opened the door for negotiation. Everyone who has information about the other side must come and give it to us. Anyone who commits a crime will be arrested.

“If you don’t want to be part of peace, the police will force the peace. The constitution says our job is to enforce the law.

“The nine lives lost and burnt houses did not happen by themselves. The people who did that will have to bear the consequences of their actions.”


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