Violence and anger have swept through the quiet, small town of Paulpietersburg in KwaZulu-Natal where a school bus for children with special needs was damaged during service delivery protests this week.
Hundreds of residents of Ward 3 in the eDumbe Local Municipality stormed the central business district on Tuesday, causing large-scale damage, including at the municipality where a bus for schoolchildren was stoned.
Police spokesperson Captain Nqobile Gwala on Wednesday said residents also blockaded the R33 with burning tyres and stones.
She said a case of public violence was opened at the Paulpietersburg police station.
“A total of 107 suspects were arrested for public violence. They are expected to appear in court tomorrow [Thursday].”
A senior source with in-depth knowledge of the eDumbe municipal council said politics and alleged disrespect from the Speaker Thembisile Hlatshwayo was at the heart of their troubles.
“The people last week marched on the municipality with a number of issues. One of the main ones was the removal of a councillor. They are saying they are disrespected when they ask her questions.”
Damage after protesters stormed the eDumbe Local Municipality. (Carlo Hambrock, Supplied)
The source said after handing over a memorandum last week, the community gave officials seven days to respond.
“When they did not get what they wanted, the town was thrown into chaos.”
Hlatshwayo’s phone was off when News24 attempted to contact her.
eDumbe Mayor Siyabonga Kunene declined to comment, instead referring News24 to ANC regional secretary Zakes Buthelezi.
“The matter is too political. I cannot comment now.”
‘Some of the demands are serious’
Buthelezi said they were engaging the community.
“We believe our people must be serviced. Some of the demands are serious and must be given immediate attention.”
He said allegations surrounding Hlatshwayo were serious and would be dealt with.
“We will definitely be looking at those concerns. We want to hear both sides of the story. We would be worried if what they are saying is true.”
He said opposition parties “were also at play”.
“There are opportunistic elements, which reduces our current negotiations. We appeal to the community to remain calm.”
A special needs school bus was also damaged. (Carlo Hambrock, Supplied)
Deputy mayor Doctor Ndlangamandla of the IFP said he also called for calm.
“We cannot condone any violence and we are saying to the people let us come to the table and talk about these issues.”
The town’s economy is at a standstill
Prominent local businessman Carlo Hambrock said the community could not afford an economic downturn.
“We cannot in this economic climate afford our business to be closed. No one can afford it. Protesters don’t allow workers to get out of the location and come to the town. Half our staff are not able to come to work.”
He said many workers were also threatened.
“The second problem is, for example, someone working at a fuel station will be threatened and forced to stay home. They tell the workers they will go to their houses.”
A heavy police presence continued to monitor the town.