/ 31 January 2014

Protesters torch Bronkhorstspruit municipal offices

Protesters Torch Bronkhorstspruit Municipal Offices

Bronkhorstspruit, east of Pretoria, was quiet on Friday following violent service delivery protests, Gauteng police said.

Brigadier Neville Malila said police were maintaining a presence in the area. "Things are quiet at the moment," he said.

Earlier, protesters torched the Zithobeni satellite police station and municipal offices. "We haven't made any arrests yet," said Malila.

Gauteng community safety MEC Faith Mazibuko said she was disgusted. "Our community members must explore all available avenues and platforms to raise service delivery issues, of which none of them is burning government property or looting.

"Not only that the act is a criminal offence but increases the financial burden on government to deliver services and rebuild state property damaged due to deliberate action."

She called on locals to help police arrest the perpetrators. "Come forward with information even if they … do so anonymously for fear of victimisation," said Mazibuko.

The City of Tshwane said disgruntled residents were protesting over the inability to buy prepaid electricity due to a system failure. It was understood that the Kungwini local municipality had merged with the Tshwane metro in 2011 but they were using different prepayment systems. "The use of parallel systems was to afford residents ample time to migrate from Conolog to the city-wide Supreme system. The city has, since the system crash, called in technicians for repairs but has been advised that the system is irreparable," city spokesperson Blessing Manale said.

The SABC reported that residents were receiving higher utility bills as a result of the change.

Efforts to change the system
The city had since intensified efforts to change the system and called on residents from Bronkhorstspruit, Zithobeni and Rethabiseng to register for the new system. 

Manale said the confrontation between metro police and residents was regrettable. "The metro police as required by law had to exercise minimum force in dispersing the protesters who had become agitated and were posing a public safety risk," said Manale.

Tshwane mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa reiterated his intention to ensure the areas were integrated to ensure they received a standard service.

"I call upon all our residents to understand that the integration of a bigger and better Tshwane will come with some inconveniences and challenges, but ultimately we will have a capital city for all," Ramokgopa said. – Sapa