/ 15 April 2015

Road tender said to be at heart of Kuruman violence

Police are holding five people in custody after cars were set alight with petrol bombs in Kuruman.
Police are holding five people in custody after cars were set alight with petrol bombs in Kuruman.

Five people are in custody near Kuruman in the Northern Cape after cars were petrol-bombed on Monday, allegedly when a dispute between two businesses competing for a road-building tender escalated into violence.

The incident occurred in Mothibistad, about 9km outside Kuruman, the scene of violent protests over the provision of tarred roads last year.

The police have arrested five suspects who will remain in custody until their first court appearance on Wednesday morning. They have been charged with malicious damage to property and pointing firearms.

Northern Cape police spokesperson Lieutenant Andrea Cloete said the incident might be related to a tender over building roads in the area. It is unclear which tender was at the centre of the dispute.

Kuruman has become known as a poster child for lucrative tender disputes. One of the men arrested on Monday is said to have been central to at least two rows over government tenders in recent years: the awarding of a R300-million tender to supply piped water to 20 000 people in the Northern Cape and a medical waste disposal tender.

The current alleged dispute revives questions about previous violent protests in the area. The lack of tarred roads in the Kuruman area has, in particular, long pitted residents against government.

In 2012, residents kept 16 000 pupils out of school amid violent protests over the nonprovision of a tarred road.

In 2013, AfriForum obtained a high court order preventing the payment of R4.2-million to a controversial businessperson by the Ga-Segonyana municipality, which includes Kuruman. The money was supposedly compensation for a botched land deal.

Last year thousands of pupils missed four months of school when protesters, calling themselves the Road Forum, took to the streets again over the municipality’s alleged failure to provide tarred roads.

Cloete said that, according to the complainants who were attacked on Monday, petrol bombs were thrown at three cars and the vehicles were set alight.

“The suspects also [allegedly] pointed firearms at the complainants,” Cloete said.

Their names have not been released because they have not yet appeared in court.

But speculation is rife that the suspects – well-known businesspeople, according to sources in the province – were angry about being cut off from municipal tenders.

Municipal spokesperson David Mabudi said he was unable to comment on allegations that a tender was at the heart of the violence. He denied, however, that the targets of the attacks were senior municipal officials.

Mabudi said the municipality believed the tendering procedure should be fair and condemned Monday’s incident.