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Police on alert as tensions simmer in Alex

Sapa

Gauteng traffic police are warning the public to keep away from certain areas of Alexandra township following violent overnight protests.

On Friday, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said South African National Defence Force troops had been called in to quell the protests. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)

“We advise motorists and other road users to avoid Vincent Tshabalala Road, 2nd Avenue, Selbourne Street and roads/streets near the Madala hostel [on Saturday] night or when it is dark due to acts of [criminality] and if there is no compelling reason for motorists to be in Alex please avoid the area,” a statement read.

Spokesperson Obed Sibasa said Second Avenue was also closed to traffic, adding there were reports of cars being stoned on the nearby N3 highway earlier on Saturday.

Meanwhile, 59 people had been arrested in connection with the protests since Friday and would appear in the Alexandra Magistrate’s Court on Monday, Gauteng police spokesperson Brigadier Neville Malila said.

Malila said “peace and calm” had been restored in the community with police maintaining high visibility.

One firearm was also seized during an operation at one of the hostels in the area on Friday night.

Burning tyres
A Sapa reporter on the scene said Eighth Avenue was quiet on Saturday morning following the protests that included the torching of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) centre in the area.

Remains of burned tyres were seen and on Sixth Avenue, rocks placed in the road slowed people trying to make their way through.

On Friday, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said South African National Defence Force troops had been called in to quell the protests.

“The provincial police commissioner [Lieutenant-General Joel Mothiba] has informed me that people in Alexandra have been attacking buildings and assaulting others ... the army is moving as we speak,” Mokonyane said on the sidelines of the IEC results centre.

Stories circulating
Meanwhile, a man swept and removed debris from the front of his house with a wheelbarrow on Saturday morning.

His house was opposite the Post Office building where the temporary IEC offices were based during the national and provincial elections.

A woman passing by complained that protesters had caused unnecessary work for the man.

The man said he did not know what the protest was about because there were many stories circulating regarding the elections.

He spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared the protesters would burn his house down.

“Some say the ANC threw away [Economic Freedom Fighters] and [Inkatha Freedom Party] ballot papers. That’s the story going around,” he said.

He said no one was attacked in the area but protesters targeted the building.

“Yesterday [Friday] there was a lot of action further up. A lot of police were going around. I also heard some gun shots. Maybe foreigners were attacked there.”

Public violence
On Friday, Gauteng police fired rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse between 300 and 400 people gathered outside the court demanding that people arrested for public violence on Thursday be released.

Malila said a room in a community centre in the township that was used by the IEC was burned by residents on Thursday night.

There were people inside the centre at the time of the fire but no injuries were reported.

EFF Gauteng leader Dali Mpofu denied an accusation by the ANC that his party brought in protesters into Alexandra.

“We do not condone violence ... and of course they would single out the EFF out of all parties involved,” Mpofu said. – Sapa

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