Protest in Wesselton turns violent

Angry protesters charge at a police officer after he tried to remove a tyre which they used to barricade a major route.

WESSELTON – An angry mob burned tyres and barricaded a major route into Wesselton and demanded the removal of an Ext 1 councillor last Friday, 25 May.

This prompted the Ermelo Police to monitor the scene as tensions ran high.

The protest took a turn for the worst when a policeman attempted to remove a tyre from the street. Protesters rushed to the scene threateningly.

Mayhem ensued when officers began shooting rubber bullets at the mob who fled in different directions.

A few protesters threw stones at the policemen, but fled when they were overpowered.

Tensions are running high in Ext 1, with some residents wanting the removal of the councillor.

Just two weeks ago, it is alleged the councillor was attacked and robbed of his cell phone.  The Msukaligwa Municipal office confirmed this.

“According to the councillor in question, he was attacked while he was intervening in an illegal connection allegedly caused by informal settlements in the area of Ward 6,” municipal spokesman, Mr Mandla Zwane, said.

A case of theft and assault was opened at the Ermelo Police Station by the councillor.

As reported previously by the Highvelder, protests began three weeks ago when youths barricaded the same road and demanded an end to the outsourcing of projects in the area.

The protesting group alleged that the councillor gave jobs to people close to him.

They named one specific project, the renovations of Emthonjeni Clinic.

An angry mob from Ext 1 burnt tyres and placed rocks in the road to block a major route into Wesselton, demanding a councillor must be removed.

They alleged the contract was given to contractors outside Ermelo.

Other issues that the mob was angry about, included the lack of service delivery, the high level of unemployment in the area and the issue of land.

During the previous protest, the municipal manager of Msukaligwa Municipality, Mr Daniel Maluleke, addressed the protesters.

He assured them that the issues would be dealt with promptly.

However, protesters were not happy and said they would continue with protests until their issues were resolved.

Police shot rubber bullets to disperse an angry mob who burned tyres and blocked a street in Wesselton.

When the newspaper enquired about the ongoing protests and whether the councillor would be removed, Mr Zwane said a councillor can only be removed if he resigns, is no longer qualified to be a councillor, ceases to be a member of the party he was elected by or if he contravenes a provision of the code of conduct for councillors.

The protest came a day after the South African Communist Party held their own peaceful march on the streets of Wesselton during which they too were demanding land for the working class and the poor.

Regarding the recent spate of service delivery protests in Msukaligwa, Mr Zwane said the municipality recognises that communities have a constitutional right to assemble peacefully, to demonstrate and to present petitions.

However the municipality denounces the violent protests which in most cases are accompanied by the destruction of properties and the violation of other citizens’ rights, like the instance of children not being allowed to go to school.

“The office of the municipal manager appeals to any aggrieved parties to raise their concerns with the office as the office is promoting and upholding an open door policy,” Mr Zwane concluded.

  AUTHOR
Amanda Mthembu
Journalist

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