ANGRY RESIDENTS TURN ON POLICE

ANGRY residents of Mashishing township near Lydenburg barricaded roads with stones and burnt tyres when they demanded that the police release their leader Mandla Mabelane.

ANGRY residents of Mashishing township near Lydenburg barricaded roads with stones and burnt tyres when they demanded that the police release their leader Mandla Mabelane.

Mabelane was arrested for allegedly instigating violence last weekend.

Mabelane, convener of Mashishing Activists Forum, was arrested on Monday after residents torched the house of a government official accused of being friends with Thaba Chweu mayor Clara Ndlovu.

Most shops in the small Lydenburg town were closed since residents threatened to loot them.

"We are not going to stop fighting until our leader is released unconditionally," said Elizabeth Lekhuleni, one of the protesters.

When Sowetan arrived in Mashishing the situation was tense, with nearly every street corner barricaded with huge rocks.

The current situation was similar to the recent protest in which a man was killed when police allegedly used live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Yesterday a police Casspir drove around the township while the police tried to disperse angry residents.

Some residents fired back at the police using their own guns.

Unlike previous occasions when the angry crowd welcomed Sowetan, the protesters pelted the journalists' vehicle with stones yesterday.

Sowetan photographer Andrew Hlongwane was slightly injured when he was hit by a missile.

Mabelane later appeared in the Mashishing magistrate's court and was released on warning on condition that he addressed the crowd and urged them to stop the violence.

Forum spokesperson Samora Mlotjwa had to run away when the police fired rubber bullets at the crowd.

The township has been hit by violent protests for almost three months since the alleged disappearance of R3,2million from the municipality's bank account.

A library, offices of the South African Social Security Agency and other properties were torched during the violence about two weeks ago.

Meanwhile, the city centre came to a standstill yesterday when taxis stopped operating.

X