Wesselton residents go on the rampage

2012-12-05 14:01
Sizwe sama Yende
Residents of Wesselton township near Ermelo went on the rampage, complaining about jobs, water and abuse in the hands of the police’s tactical response unit, known in township lingo as “amaberet”.

The angry protesters have burned two vehicles belonging to security company Fidelity Guards and Spoornet, respectively, since the unrest erupted around 5am today.

They also barricaded roads and pelted passing vehicles with stones.

The residents snapped after they learned that Msukaligwa Mayor Sipho Bongwe had allegedly instructed mines and other corporate companies operating in the area to stop dealing with a community structure about job opportunities and skills development.

The Msukaligwa Concerned Committee (MMC), formed after week-long protests last year February, had been liaising with the companies about the recruitment of local people.

MMC deputy chairperson Dumisani Mahaye said companies had been cancelling regular meetings with the committee since last week.

“The companies have shown us the email, which says they should only engage with the Msukaligwa local economic development officials on any matters and not MMC.

When we reported this to the community they became angry because the MMC had been making progress in ensuring that local people are considered for job openings,” Mahaye said.

The other complaints are that water supply has been erratic and the police unit has been harassing residents.

“Amaberet assault people. They humiliate residents all the time by forcing them to do push-ups and pour liquor on people they find in drinking places,” Mahaye added.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi said that the situation was now calm and police had been deployed to patrol the township.

“Reasons for the unrest are still unknown to the police. We’ve not arrested anyone yet but we’re investigating public violence and malicious damage to property charges,” said Hlathi.

Msukaligwa spokesperson Mandla Zwane said he would check with the mayor about the email.

“I can confirm that water has been a problem because our dams are running dry. We’ve been using water tankers to supply the community,” Zwane said.

He added that the municipality had not yet assessed the extent of the damage.