Siyathemba riots 'not about service delivery'

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Balfour - The protests that have rocked Siyathemba township in Balfour, Mpumalanga, since Sunday are not related to service delivery, spokesperson for the Dipaliseng local municipality, Mahlalefi Lebotha said on Tuesday.

The protests, in which 22 people have been arrested on charges of public violence, theft and arson, which included the burning of a municipal office and looting of shops belonging to foreign nationals, are linked to unemployment.

Lebotha said the protesters were accusing the Burnstone Gold Mine of failing to fulfil its promise to ensure that 50 percent of its workforce was made up of locals.

He said the municipality would be meeting with officials from the provincial Department of Co-Operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to try and find a solution to the matter.

Burnstone mine spokesperson, Tsolo Serunye said the mine would release a statement on the matter later on Tuesday.

Protester, Herbert Zitha, said residents wanted jobs at the mine. He said the mine would also be forced to close its operations if they failed to employ more people from Siyathemba.

"We want this mine to remain true to the employment policy that they promised us when came here two years ago. More than 50 percent of locals are unemployed and the mine has instead employed people from other provinces," he said.

However, he also called for the area to be re-demarcated so that it falls under the Gauteng Province again. He said there was poor service delivery in Mpumalanga.

"We demand the resignation of all the councillors in the municipality. The first to go must be the mayor and the municipal manager; they have failed us. We also demand the immediate re-demarcation of Balfour to Gauteng because Mpumalanga s**** when it comes to service delivery.

"You just have to look at what was happening last year to know what I am saying," said Zitha.

Police spokesperson, Sergeant Sam Tshabalala, said matters had grown more tense on Tuesday as people regrouped at the local stadium.

"They are burning tyres and blockading every road in the township. About 60 of our members are in the area trying to calm the situation," said Sergeant Tshabalala.

He said the 22 people who were arrested for arson and public violence on Monday were unable to appear in court on Tuesday because of the renewed protests.

"They are being kept in custody until Wednesday," he said.

In June last year, more than 100 people were arrested in the same township for public violence during week-long service delivery protests.

Service delivery protests broke out in five Mpumalanga municipalities last year. At the time, provincial Premier David Mabuza blamed the protests on a lack of meaningful public participation and communication in matters that affect communities.