The violence that rocked Thembisile Hani Local Municipality in Mpumalanga may resume today, following last week’s shutdown protests that left a trail of destruction in Kwaggafontein, northeast of Pretoria.
The protests, sparked by lack of water and complaints of “outsiders” working in the municipality while locals were unemployed have seen offices and vehicles belonging to the department of social development torched.
The Moloto Road (R573), which connects Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo, was blocked off, preventing thousands of people commuting between Pretoria and the former KwaNdebele homeland from going to work and school.
Sibusiso Mbele, a petrol attendant in Gezina, Pretoria, said yesterday: “First, there were posters about the shutdown and we ignored it, but it happened and many people were inconvenienced, shops looted and property damaged.
“Now, the talk was that the protest would be suspended for the Easter holidays and resume on Tuesday.”
Residents of Waterval in the Dr JS Moroka local municipality in Mpumalanga reported protests yesterday morning, with the main road cutting through the area to Kameelrivier blocked with burning tyres.
Alfred Skosana, who works in Johannesburg and was home for the Easter holidays, said the road was blocked in the morning and those using Battalion Road to Gauteng had to make a U-turn to connect to R573.
The province saw at least four service delivery protests last week: three in Ehlanzeni towns of Low’s Creek in Barberton, Tonga and Pienaar, and the most violent in Kwaggafontein, where police fired rubber bullets, injuring and arresting scores of protesters. Police have been criticised for allegedly being heavy-handed.
Local ward councillor Lebo Dlamini told the SABC that she was shot on the arm and leg with rubber bullets without any provocation. “It was only when I shouted ‘I am a councillor’ that they stopped shooting.”
Police spokesperson Brigadier Leonard Hlathi urged all those claiming police brutality to open cases at Kwaggafontein police station so these could be referred to the police watchdog Independent Police Investigative Directorate.
Thembisile Hani spokesperson Simphiwe Mashiane said the complaint about water was genuine.