From the news desk

#TshwaneUnrest: townships ablaze over Didiza

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Bus driver Themba Mukhari had a close shave with death after protesters surrounded his bus at 6am, ordering him and his passengers to get out.

“They threw wood inside the bus, poured petrol into it, then torched it,” he said.

In another section of the township, about 200 people started looting shops; people were climbing in through the roof to help themselves to groceries.

Those attempting to leave or enter the township were frustrated as protesters turned back cars driving along the N4 West between Atteridgeville and Lotus Gardens, leaving schoolchildren unable to get to school.

Violent protests also continued in GaRankuwa, Mamelodi and Hammanskraal.

A traffic gridlock gripped the N1 freeway and the adjacent R101 road between Polokwane and Tshwane after the blocking of both roads by protesters in Hammanskraal. There were reports of foreign-owned shops being looted in Hammanskraal.

The police struggled to control the violence as protesters played cat-and-mouse, dispersing every time officers approached, only to re-emerge in another section of the township.

Gauteng SAPS spokeswoman Colonel Noxolo Kweza said: “When it dies down in one area, it picks up in another.”

Although she would not comment on the exact number of police officers deployed, she said it was a reasonable amount as there were scores of people taking to the streets.

“I can say that we have even called members who are on rest and those from the head office to be deployed to the area.”

The Gauteng Department of Health said on Tuesday that some of its vehicles had been attacked.

In some instances the ambulance service was unable to access patients.

“We have noted with concern that roads are blocked in many areas around Tshwane metro and access denied to emergency services, which is not only endangering EMS personnel lives, but that of patients as well,” said health department spokesman Steve Mabona.

“Regrettable incidents of stoning of emergency vehicles in the early hours of the morning in Hammanskraal have also been reported.”

Health MEC Qedani Mahlangu pleaded with protesters to allow emergency vehicles and personnel into the townships.

Tshwane residents went on the rampage on Sunday night following the ANC’s announcement of Thoko Didiza as the metro’s mayoral candidate.

A taxi driver who declined to be named said the ANC undermined people by appointing “a Zulu from KwaZulu-Natal to govern over Bapedi and Batswana”.

One of the protesters said the removal of current mayoral incumbent Kgosientso Ramokgopa had irked the community.

“Sputla (Ramokgopa) is the people’s mayor and has done a lot for communities in the townships. We weren’t consulted about Didiza’s nomination and it was imposed on us,” said one of the protesters, who wanted to remain anonymous, on Tuesday morning.

But while residents appeared to be canvassing for him, Ramokgopa voiced his displeasure with the violent protests, on Facebook.

In the post on Monday night, Ramokgopa said: “We call upon all disciplined members of the ANC in Tshwane to desist from acts of violence and anarchy.

“It’s going to be our singular and collective business to ensure that the ANC retains Tshwane and that Comrade Thoko Didiza is given an opportunity to thrive.”

Protesters also claimed the media was “disturbing them” as they continued to barricade roads with burning tyres and rubble.

“We don’t want the media here because you’re disturbing us,” shouted one of the protesters.

Kweza said a meeting would be held later today to discuss the extent of the damage caused by the protest action, which now includes gutted cars and buses. There have also been reports of infrastructural damage, leading to the closure of a toll gate in the area.

No arrests had been made.

However, Kweza said several cases had been opened, including a case of murder, and cases of malicious damage to property and intimidation.

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