/ 17 February 2011

Wesselton protests suspended

The protest in the Mpumalanga township of Wesselton, near Ermelo, was suspended on Thursday, said a community leader.

“We feel the message has been sent out. National leaders now know that there is a crisis in Ermelo,” said Dumisani Mahaye.

A community meeting was scheduled for Monday, when the community expected a report back from senior leaders of the African National Congress (ANC).

“We are waiting for their response and we will take another action on Monday depending on the response from the leaders,” he said.

Mahaye said the community was not happy about the state of service delivery in the area, unemployment and the manner in which candidates for the forthcoming municipal elections were selected.

“In ward five, the community feels the screening process is not transparent because its preferred candidate is placed down on the list, automatically ruling him out of the race,” he said.

Residents wanted Bongani Phakatsi on the list, but the ANC in the region wanted as its candidate a man who had been identified only as Comrade Mpe.

The Msukalinga municipality said R350 000 damage to property was caused during the violent protests in the area earlier this week.

Spokesperson Surprise Ngcongo said the damaged property included traffic lights, road signs and access roads.

“The recent spate of violent protests had nothing to do with service delivery concerns. In fact, concerns raised by the angry protesters are political in nature,” he said.

He said the municipality had received a memorandum relating to the state of roads in the township six month ago, and was addressing the problem.

“The municipality has not received any written memorandum relating to the sombre political situation thus far. However, there are reports that the ANC in the Gert Sibande district is facilitating a dialogue with local councillors to find an amicable solution to the current impasse,” he said.

The situation in Wesselton was slowly return to normal on Thursday.

Taxis negotiated their way around heaps of rubble that protesters had used to block the road.

Schools remained deserted, with children roaming the streets.

“We did not go to schools because it was not safe,” said Sibusiso Ncgobo, who was playing soccer with friends in the street.

“Maybe on Friday we will be going to school,” he said.

There was a high police visibility in the area. — Sapa