THE violent protest over poor service delivery in Piet Retief turned deadly when two people were killed yesterday.

The protest, which began last week. became violent when Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza failed to arrive for a meeting.

Yesterday Mabuza suspended all Mkhondo municipality councillors - including the mayor and municipal manager.

Sowetan reported yesterday that houses belonging to executive mayor Mary Khumalo and three other councillors were set alight by protesting crowds who claimed they were tired of empty promises.

Angry residents toyi-toyied over the lack of service delivery, nepotism, incomplete roads, the selling of RDP houses by councillors and rates hikes.

On Sunday the community waited patiently at the Mandla Magudulela Stadium for Mabuza to address them, but things got out of hand when they were told he was not coming.

The residents torched the local clinic, library, community hall, three trucks and two cars belonging to the Mkhondo municipality.

The names of the dead men have not been released and the police have appealed to community members to help trace their families.

Mabuza was forced to visit the area yesterday and after a closed meeting announced that the executive mayor, municipal manager Roy Ledwaba and all councillors were suspended with immediate effect.

He said he would appoint an administrator to run the council and that he would update residents about progress in 30 days. He condemned the violent protests and urged residents not to resort to violence in resolving their problems.

Piet Retief police spokesperson Charles Nkosi said 23 people were arrested on charges of public violence. "They are all in custody and will appear in court soon."