13 July 2018

South Africa: Kimberley Police in Urgent Call for Reinforcements During Unrest

Kimberly law enforcement officers who are on leave, have urgently been asked to return to work as unrest continues to grip the town.

Law enforcement officers have been deployed all over the city following increased reports of violence and looting, Lieutenant Colonel Mashay Gamaldien said.

"Five SAPS members who were injured during the protest have just been discharged from hospital and we have called them back to help," she said.

"Even the officers who have been placed on leave have been called back."

Boipelo Mere, a journalist at the Northern Cape Express, described the situation on the ground on Friday as "tense".

Mere said the protesters were currently moving to the Kimberley CBD.

"I heard from the organisers of yesterday's [Thursday] march that they were busy engaging with different communities where the looting took place - to call them to order," she said.

Mere said several buildings were set alight in Galeshewe and shops were looted.

Rocks and burning tyres were also used to barricade roads in the township.

It is unclear how many people have since been arrested, but Captain Olebogeng Tawana said five had been arrested for public violence and business robbery.

On Thursday, Kimberley residents marched peacefully to the municipal buildings to demand that mayor Mangaliso Matika suspend municipal manager Goolam Akharwaray and chief financial officer Lydia Mahloko for allegations of corruption.

News24's sister publication Netwerk24 reported that protesters were dissatisfied that a R1.2m contract was awarded to an unknown service provider to send SMSes to residents in relation to electricity issues. It is alleged that the tender was not advertised.

A local business owner, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the protest turned violent when Matika addressed the crowd from inside the building instead of going out to meet them.

"He didn't tell them what they wanted to hear and some people started throwing bricks at the municipal building. That's when the police started shooting," the eyewitness said.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said that Akharwaray and Mahloko have both gone on voluntary leave as of Friday.

Matsie said this would allow processes of investigation and engagement with community leaders to continue in a conducive environment, adding that the sole objective was to resolve the current situation that has been marred by violence.

"The municipality would like to call on the broader community to be part of the extensive discussions and not allow legitimate grievances of the community to be delegitimised by acts of destruction and lawlessness," he said.

Matsie said the matter would be referred to a special council meeting once all role players have been concluded.

"It's our collective responsibility to ensure that all matters are resolved speedily. The need for peaceful resolution is greater, as ordinary people need to access hospitals and clinics, while schools are due to reopen soon and businesses that have suffered losses need to operate in a safe environment."

He urged community members to refrain from damaging infrastructure, saying that once the situation was safe enough, the municipal teams would clean up the city.

Source: News24

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