The situation in Mamelodi, east of Pretoria, remained volatile on Tuesday evening as protests over the decision by the African National Congress (ANC) to deploy former cabinet minister Thoko Didiza as the party’s Tshwane Mayoral Candidate ahead of the upcoming local government elections continued unabated.
A number of major routes into the township were blocked off with rocks, burning tyres, and tree stumps. Many residents were unable to travel to work, while pupils were not able to attend classes.
The Tsamaya and Solomon Mahlangu roads into Mamelodi were closed. Groups of hostile protesters continued to move along many of the township’s streets barricading the roads, forcing drivers to make U-turns or navigate their vehicles through the burning tyres and rocks.
The protests, which have spread to many parts of Tshwane, including Atteridgeville, Soshanguve, Hammanskraal and Mamelodi, broke out in the Pretoria CBD on Monday during the Tshwane ANC regional executive committee (REC) meeting where the regional leaders were discussing the decision to deploy Didiza as the Tshwane metro mayoral candidate.
It is alleged that the unrest is as a result of some ANC members and supporters’ unhappiness over the ANC NEC (national executive committee) and PEC (provincial executive committee) decision to field Didiza as a mayoral candidate in the capital city over the ANC regional chairman and current Tshwane Mayor Kgosientsho Ramokgopa and his deputy chairman Mapiti Matsena.
A number of businesses and shopping centres in and around Mamelodi, including the Mahube, Denneboom and Denlyn shopping centre, were forced to close as early as midday on Tuesday to avoid the looting that happened in other areas of Tshwane, and to protect the safety of their customers and employees. Some filling stations also closed shop.
Addressing a media briefing on the conclusion of the Presidential Labour Working Group meeting convened by President Jacob Zuma at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa strongly condemned the violence and appealed for calm in all affected areas.
“We condemn the acts of violence in the strongest terms, all us collectively as government and labour feel very strong about this and call on our people to stay calm, to desist from violence and not even to be tempted by anyone to participate in acts of violence. To those who are perpetrating
violence, the security forces in our country are on hand to ensure that no one perpetrates violence against anyone and if you do perpetrate acts of violence, you are violating the rights of others and you shall be arrested,” warned Ramaphosa.
Some Mamelodi residents told African News Agency they feared for their safety, particularly at night.
“The situation is really getting out of hand. Look at what these people are doing. This is so sad and we are unnecessarily affected by their factionalism. The unrest is really unnecessary. These people should just go to Luthuli House (the ANC headquarters in Johannesburg) and burn it not to inconvenience us. As residents we are very worried about our safety particularly at night because there are currently few police officers monitoring the area,” said Josephine Motlhatlheng.
Ministers from government’s justice, crime prevention and security cluster, including State Security Minister David Mahlobo and Defense Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, and Gauteng Premier David Makhura earlier visited Mamelodi to monitor the protest action and to assure the residents that police would continue monitoring the situation until normality returns.
At least 19 buses belonging to the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa’s (PRASA’) Autopax operation were torched and gutted on Monday night.
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