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Thembelihle protesters' fire causes R1.5m damage

Staff Reporter

Protesting residents of Thembelihle set fire to three load centres, causing damage of R1.5-million during this week's service delivery protests.

Damage of R1.5-million was caused during this week’s service delivery protests in Thembelihle, south of Johannesburg, city officials said on Wednesday.

They said protesting residents set fire to three load centres, depriving most of Lenasia Extensions Nine to 11 of power from Monday night to 3am on Wednesday.

This emerged from a joint statement by Roslyn Greef of the mayoral council and City Power acting managing director Sicelo Xulu.

Protesters in the township of Thembelihle near Lenasia took to the streets this week in an increasingly violent display of residents’ grievances over inadequate housing and access to water.
A third of the area was still without power on Wednesday morning, but City Power said all these areas would be reconnected by the end of the day.

Public lighting had been installed in Thembelihle to improve security in the area, but this infrastructure had been damaged by illegal connections. The company would remove the illegal connections, but maintain the public lighting.

“Whilst we remain committed to supplying electricity to all residents of this city, we are however not in the position to do any electricity installations in Thembelihle until the area is officially proclaimed a human settlement,” said Greef and Xulu.

City Power had opened a case of damage to property at the Lenasia police station over the fire. It said Thembelihle residents should take responsibility for the public lighting and protect it from those who stole cables and made illegal electricity connections.

Planned march
Residents of the informal settlement planned to march on Wednesday in support of those arrested during the protests this week, said police spokesperson Captain Mbulaheni Netshivhodza.

“We have received information that they are planning to march, but at this stage we don’t know where they will hold the demonstration.”

He said a heavy police contingent was present at the township, near Lenasia, and that the situation was calm.

Both lanes on Klipspruit Valley Road had been opened on Wednesday morning after residents barricaded it with burning tyres and rocks on Monday.

Eighteen people were arrested in connection with public violence and malicious damage to property during the protests against poor housing, water shortages and corruption.

Residents fired live ammunition at police, a school and a councillor’s house on Tuesday morning. Police fired rubber bullets in return.

Protesters also damaged cars, traffic lights and electricity meters and trampled on a 15-year-old girl as they ran from the police.

Two occupants of a Toyota Cressida were pelted with stones.

Tebogo Tshwala (11), who was hit in the face by a rubber bullet on Monday, was discharged from Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital the following day, according to a report in the Sowetan.

Local government housing minister Humphrey Mmemezi addressed residents on Tuesday on their issues. The Democratic Alliance called on Mmemezi to intervene in the protests and formulate a plan to improve service delivery in the province.—Sapa

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