Ramaphosa cancels UK trip amid Mahikeng mayhem
President calls for calm after two days of violent protests, burning barricades and looting
President Cyril Ramaphosa took the unprecedented decision to cut short his all-important trip to the UK for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to respond to violent protests in the North West Capital of Mahikeng.
This comes after two days of violent protests, barricaded roads and looting as residents demand the ousting of their premier, Supra Mahumapelo.Last night, Ramaphosa called for calm and adherence to the rule of law following the looting of shops and an outbreak of violence.
Ramaphosa is expected to convene an urgent meeting to deal with the demand to remove Mahumapelo.
The ANC announced that Ramaphosa would arrive at the volatile town at midday on Friday alongside the ANC top brass, including secretary-general Ace Magashule and his deputy, Jessie Duarte.
He will address the ANC and its alliance partners as well as the party’s legislature caucus, where there has been a strong push for Mahumapelo’s ouster amid widespread accusations of corruption.Residents were planning a mass meeting for Friday morning to discuss the way forward to remove Mahumapelo “once and for all”.
On Thursday, roads in and out of Mahikeng were barricaded with burning tyres, branches, rocks and nails, as schools, clinics, hospitals, shops and all government buildings remained closed indefinitely.
A police small charter plane was seen flying over the whole of Mahikeng. Police spokesperson Adele Myburg said they were monitoring the protests from above the entire day, but the protesters were “playing hide and seek with the police”.
“When the police go and intervene they run away and regroup in another area,” she said.Myburg said the police were not aware of the community meeting on Friday, but reinforcements from Pretoria and Rustenburg had been called in.
Angus Africa, a former DA PR councillor, is one of the leaders at the forefront of the violent protests.
In his neighbourhood of Denville, young people and the elderly alike greeted him with friendly smiles and shared jokes as he showed Times Select around, helping at the manned barricades.He spoke with disgust that Mahumapelo’s government had neglected his suburb. “Since 1994, nothing has happened,” he repeatedly said.
“Denville does not have a community hall; if you have meetings you must go to the school. Sometimes the school doesn’t have lights,” Africa said.
He said the municipality does not have a budget to service the area; he attributed most of the infrastructure in the area to the pre-1994 government.
He showed Times Select parts of an overflowing sewer pump, an overgrown soccer field, which was left half-built, and a half-completed community park, which allegedly cost the municipality R27-million.
“Our kids take themselves to drugs why? There is nothing here,” Africa said.
“We don’t care who is in charge, we want service delivery, we want houses ... and our roads and we want a community hall and entertainment for our young kids,” said Africa.The CBD resembled a ghost town, with many shops locked and rocks and burnt tyres littering the streets.
Police patrolled the streets, occasionally chasing youngsters suspected to be part of the looting gangs that broke into a number of shops.
In different areas of town a burnt truck, a tractor, cars and trailers had been used as part of street blockades.
At the entrance to the town, Danville residents were protesting at an abandoned park project that they claimed was paid for by taxpayers but was never delivered to the community.Resident and caregiver Dayvanah Davids said they were protesting for services they believed residents were deprived off because of corruption.
“We have been living here for 35 years. There are no roads. We live in the dumpsites. The schools have no toilets. When we are saying the premier must go it's because he is allowing corruption. He is corrupt. There is money. When we ask for services we are told there is no money,” she said.
Davids said millions were spent on a park and stadium , which never materialised.
In Setumo Park, tractors belonging to a local business leader were burnt overnight on Wednesday.
A local DA leader in the municipality, Sello Motsenyane, said businesses were severely affected by the protests.Ncedani Majavu, a resident of Setumo Park, said he was forced to leave work at the town’s Industria when the protests became violent.
“It was not nice, so the company had to release us to come back,” he said.
He said he was uncertain whether the strike would escalate on Friday since he had not received any communication from the community leadership.“On the side of service delivery, I agree with them there, but on the issue of the premier, I am not so much politics ... I can’t be involved on that one,” he said.
Police confirmed that nine people had been arrested in connection with the violent protests.
Meanwhile, Mahumapelo announced he had suspended health department head Dr Thabo Lekalakala and instituted a forensic investigation against him following a recommendation by the provincial legislature’s health committee.
He was implicated in a scandal in which the department paid R30-million to the Gupta-linked Mediosa for mobile clinics.
Mahumapelo was accused of protecting Lekalakala and being party to corruption in the provincial government.