/ 16 February 2011

More than 120 arrested in protests near Ermelo

More Than 120 Arrested In Protests Near Ermelo

National police commissioner Bheki Cele on Wednesday said more than 120 people had been arrested in Wesselton near Ermelo in Mpumalanga, SABC news reported.

Police were looking to arrest particular individuals as part of their criminal investigations. One of them had already handed himself over at a police station in Johannesburg, Cele said.

About 160 police were deployed in the area as the violent protests entered day three. Cele visited Wesselton on Wednesday afternoon.

He said he had forwarded the demand by protesters to meet with an ANC national executive committee member.

Earlier on Wednesday police battled to restore calm.

Officers moved back and forth as they tried to clear up the barricaded streets, littered with burning tyres, shattered glass, uprooted street signs and carpets of broken bottles and bricks.

However, as soon as the officers moved to the next street, protesters came back to set tyres alight and barricade the roads again.

The protesters threw stones at the police and the media but no injuries were reported by noon.

Residents chanted “voetsek, voetsek” (go away) at the police as they danced with burning tyres held with sticks.

Schools closed
Schools were closed in the area as the protests, believed to be over poor service delivery and a lack of work continued.

Mpumalanga safety and security MEC Vusi Shongwe condemned the spate of violent protests.

“All citizens of the republic have rights, including the right by the media to collect news and broadcast them to the nation, therefore the attacks were unnecessary and perpetuated by people who are pursuing criminal activities,” Shongwe said.

Whatever problems the community had, damaging property and attacking people would not help with enhanced service delivery.

Live television footage shown on TV on Tuesday showed a group stoning a police vehicle — then rushing towards eNews cameraman Linge Ndabambi and reporter Jody Jacobs.

Both had to be treated for minor injuries. Their outside broadcast vehicle was badly damaged in the fracas.

The Cape Town Press Club condemned the attack on the eNews team.

“We call on the police to investigate the events surrounding this incident, and to track down those who were responsible for the attack.”

On Tuesday Cele said a team of highly skilled police officers, including those experienced in crowd control, had been deployed to Ermelo.

“An escalation of violence including the burning of tyres, throwing of stones and firing of live ammunition by demonstrators as well as assault of media crew in the area has demanded high intervention,” he said. — Sapa