Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

ANC not to blame for Bekkersdal violence, says Xaba

ANC representatives visiting Bekkersdal, west of Johannesburg, were protected by their VIP security because they were pelted with stones, an official said on Friday.

"At some point, a particular crowd got aggressive and started closing in on the public representatives [on Thursday]," ANC Gauteng caucus spokesperson Mbangwa Xaba told the South African Press Association (Sapa). "This should be condemned … Public representatives were barred from doing their work and still did a walkabout but were pelted with stones."

Thabang Wesi, leader of the Concerned Residents of Bekkersdal, told Sapa that residents saw ANC bodyguards with weapons in the township He said the bodyguards shot at unarmed people, mainly school pupils.

"Residents then managed to retaliate. The situation was very tense," he said at the time. "If people want to vote, let them go vote but [they] must vote out the ruling party. We can see the ANC is arrogant and use force to coerce us into voting for them."

The Star on Friday reported that ANC bodyguards fired live ammunition at residents after schooling was disrupted at around 11am.

Not bodyguards, but police VIP protection
The party's Gauteng representatives were in Bekkersdal on Thursday for door-to-door campaigning. Three police nyalas and heavily armed police patrolled the area and fired rubber bullets at residents and school pupils, it reported. Xaba said the ANC did not have bodyguards but VIP protection, which was provided by the South African Police Service.

"We commend the police for ensuring no loss of life and no injuries. Under extreme provocation there was no loss of life and for that we are very grateful," he said.

Gauteng police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said he could not comment on the VIP protection unit's actions as it did not fall under his jurisdiction. "We can't comment on their actions, they fall under the national office, they don't fall under provincial. We can only comment on our members."

But Dlamini confirmed that rubber bullets were fired by police because their vehicles were stoned. Six people were arrested for public violence. Dlamini referred other enquiries to national police spokesperson Vishnu Naidoo, who said he would get feedback before commenting.

ANC Gauteng chief whip Brian Hlongwa said in a statement on Thursday their planned meeting with the community was disrupted by youth.

School disruptions 'unacceptable'
There could never be a concept of no-go areas in a democratic society, he said.

"It is unacceptable that schooling should be disrupted as it was done today and legitimate public representatives being barred from doing their work," said Hlongwa.

"Problems in Bekkersdal must be resolved urgently with all stakeholders playing their role otherwise anarchy will derail democratic progress in that township."

He said the ruling party's understanding was that there were two major problems raised by the community.

The first was the removal of the mayor and council – which were being dealt with through mechanisms provided there. And the second issue was the allegations of corruption.

"In this regard, we believe the Gauteng government together with the Greater Westonaria Concerned Residents Association have agreed on how to resolve it with programmes involving relevant state investigative institutions," said Hlongwa.

"So, clearly, there are commitments and [a] programme to deal with the challenges at least from the part of government, but I think as caucus we should ensure that these processes are accelerated."

ANC 'forced themselves' in Bekkersdal
This would mean that Bekkersdal residents must be engaged with on a continued basis and also ensure the leadership of the aggrieved also take responsibility.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said the ANC pushed itself into the community. In October last year, Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and other ANC members went to Bekkersdal to hand over RDP houses to the community and were threatened by residents there.

"Nomvula Mokonyane and her crew came to hand over some RDP house and seeing that the community was not interested and rejected her, they then forced themselves into Bekkersdal to campaign," said EFF co-ordinator Omphile Maotwe in a statement.

"We are disturbed to learn that the police accused these young school children of throwing stones at unmarked state cars, and fired rubber bullets to disperse them."

'The situation was very tense'
But Wesi said on Thursday that residents were surprised when they saw bodyguards with weapons in the township.

He said the guards shot at unarmed people, mainly school pupils.

Wesi said they would not stop anyone from voting in the upcoming elections on May 7. He however appealed to residents to vote wisely.

"If people want to vote, let them go vote but [they] must vote out the ruling party. We can see the ANC is arrogant and use force to coerce us into voting for them," he said.

Wesi questioned the logic behind the ANC's move to visit the township without consulting them first. He said other parties had visited the area with no disruptions and conflicts.

Maotwe said Mokonyane must accept that the community of Bekkersdal rejects her and her leadership.

"These are the very same people she told that she does not want their dirty votes."

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Sapa
Guest Author

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

More top stories

Lucas Radebe: ‘My football career began behind my parents’ back’

Soccer legend Lucas ‘Rhoo’ Radebe is a busy man, but he made time in his hectic schedule to speak to Ntombizodwa Makhoba about his fondest childhood memories, how his soccer career began, and, as a father of eight, his legacy

Coko vs S ruling: The case against a subjective test...

Acting judge Tembeka Ngcukaitobi’s acquittal of a rape suspect has raised controversy, but legal experts say the fault lay with legislators and not the court

Defend journalists and media freedom in Eswatini

Journalists are censored through cruel and illegitimate detention, torture and the removal of means to disseminate information to citizens crying – and dying – for it

It’s safe to open the beaches, says UPL after chemical...

Agrochemical producer UPL said it has paid R250-million in chemical spill clean-up
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×