Calm has been restored in some parts of Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality, including Qwaqwa, Harrismith and Kestell, after a group of protestors started looting businesses and destroying property on Tuesday night. The chaos unfolded after the group, made up of opposition political parties, became violent over their dissatisfaction with Executive Mayor, Vusi Tshabalala, insisting that he should resign, citing corruption allegations.
When the Dumelang News team visited the areas on Wednesday, calm was already restored with traces of burnt tyres and destroyed property as well as small groupings occupying some isolated exit points to some parts of Qwaqwa. According to the municipality’s media and communications manager, Kedibone Sentle, the protest was not as big as it has been portrayed in the media.
Instead, Sentle said, the seedy acts were carried out by a few individuals within the community as part of a smear campaign against Mayor Tshabalala, with a hidden political agenda behind it all. In an exclusive interview with the ‘People’s Paper’ on Wednesday, the Executive Mayor said that the municipality encourages any member of community to lay charges against those implicated in wrongdoing within the municipality. “This will allow the law to take its course without the actions of other residents interrupting any other public services that assist the vast majority of community.
The South African Police Services have been contacted to assist in the regard with the looting, vandalism and personal public damages incurring due to the demonstrations. We urge communities to demonstrate, communicate and solve their dissatisfaction in an amicable manner,” said Tshabalala. Pertaining to the lack of proper water supply services and electricity problems that the group alleges were the main grievance, Tshabalala said there were ongoing negotiations with the water boards whom they owe for bulk water supply, He said, however, it was also challenging to collect revenue from residents in order to keep up with debt to the water boards.
“Our electricity supply interruptions are historical, you will remember that as the municipality, we have opened cases against some of our employees who tamper with substations to sabotage the system and the SAPS are investigating,” said Tshabalala. Police spokesperson, Brigadier Motantsi Makhele confirmed that a number of cases were under investigation after arrests were made.
“Currently, we have arrested over twenty suspects in connection with the break-ins and looting of businesses where they face charges of burglary while others face charges of public violence,” said Makhele. He also confirmed to Dumelang News that a 22 year-old man was shot in the stomach while police were clearing the streets during the violent protests.