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27 Oct 2013 19:13
Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane. (Delwyn Verasamy, M&G)
Gauteng premier Nomvula Mokonyane on Sunday vowed not to be intimidated by Bekkersdal's protesting residents.
"I will never run away from anything," she told reporters in Bekkersdal, near Westonaria west of Johannesburg.
"I will not run away from our people when they have a crisis."
The township has been plagued by violent protests with residents demanding the removal of their mayor.
The protests have seen government properties being vandalised and pupils being taken out of schools.
On Sunday, roads were barricaded with rocks and burning tree stumps.
Disruptiion of 'sanctuaries'
Mokonyane said government would not be held to ransom.
The premier had heard a story where residents were demanding the release of people who were arrested during the protests, otherwise looting would continue in the area.
"They are undermining the rights of our people. We won't tolerate [this] undermining of the law," she said.
Mokonyane also slammed the residents for disrupting church services in the area, which was never seen even during the apartheid era.
"Churches were our sanctuaries," she said.
Westonaria mayor Nonkuliso Thunzi said the situation in Bekkersdal would not be resolved as long as residents stated that council should not come into the township.
Gauteng economic development MEC Mxolisi Hhayiya blasted the residents for claiming they were not engaged.
He said the mayor had engaged with the residents but was exposed to abuse.
"I have met the group and they were dictating that leaders be removed.
We want to talk to people who want to resolve this.
Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini said on Sunday police had intensified their deployment in Bekkersdal to maintain law and order.
"Although the spate of violence has decreased, police are remaining on alert and will take any necessary steps to maintain peace," he said.
"Police also remains confident that service delivery issues will be resolved and the criminal elements who have taken advantage of the situation will be brought to book."
He said since the protests began, a group 59 people had appeared in the Westonaria Magistrate's Court after being arrested for various charges including attempted murder, burglary, theft, suspected possession of stolen goods, and public violence.
The group's case had been postponed to October 31 and December 2 respectively.
Seven other people arrested on Thursday for public violence were expected to appear in the same court on Monday.
"More people may be arrested and added to the group as police are still continuing to investigate charges related [to] protests," he said.
In the meanwhile, community members behind the violence and looting had been identified and police would make sure they were arrested in order for the law to take its course.
Earlier, Dlamini said a group prevented cleaning trucks from entering the township. – Sapa
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