Police were mopping up streets in Intabazwe at Harrismith on Friday after three days of rioting that claimed the life of a teenager.
Municipal workers helped to clear away burnt tyres, car wrecks and rocks left behind by demonstrators. The protests were sparked by what was termed poor service delivery.
In the early hours of Friday, police rounded up five of the ringleaders, said spokesperson Veronica Ntepe.
The leading figures in the Greater Harrismith Concerned Residents (GHCR) association were taken into custody at 1am.
Ntepe said the men appeared in court on charges of organising an illegal march and of public violence.
On Thursday night, police refused a GHCR request for a public meeting, saying it was made too late.
Ntepe said the situation in the township was under control by Friday afternoon, but police were maintaining a strong presence in the area.
Moluti-a-Phufung mayor Balekile Mzangwa on Friday said the municipality will in future engage more often with Harrismith residents on development in the area.
The protesters’ main gripe was that neighbouring Qwaqwa area — earlier declared a developmental node area by President Thabo Mbeki — was getting all the municipality’s attention.
Denying this, Mzangwa said: ”It’s a matter of perception that more is being done in Qwaqwa than in Harrismith.”
Mzangwa said the Moluti-a-Phufung municipality comprises Qwaqwa, Harrismith and Kestell and different communities have different needs.
He questioned assertions that he was a target of the protests and partly to blame for the demonstrations.
”You’re bound to find two to three people in a march [who have] something personal, which is natural,” Mzangwa said. — Sapa