cops open fire as residents riot

TEN police vans were damaged when incensed S'bongile township residents in Dundee, northern KwaZulu-Natal, went on the rampage.

Disgruntled youths trashed the township, complaining about corruption and nepotism. They blocked roads with burning tyres, emptied rubbish bins, and pelted police with stones. Police in return fired rubber bullets to disperse them. The protestors also smashed the windows of a house belonging to former mayor Thandeka Nukani.

Police spokesperson Phindile Radebe said: "Trouble started on Monday when residents ran amok. Nine police vans were damaged and today (yesterday) one was damaged. A police officer was seriously injured and 38 people were arrested.

"Those arrested are expected to appear in court today on charges of public violence."

The situation had reportedly been tense since last week.

A community meeting was held last Friday at which a decision to protest outside the eNdumeni municipal offices was taken. On Monday a group of young people, allegedly from the ANC Youth League, IFP Youth Brigade, NGOs and church-based organisations, decided to protest.

One of the leaders, Siyabonga Mahlaba, said their grievances were about corruption, nepotism and the municipality's failure to submit financial reports to the auditor-general for two consecutive years.

"Also, we have concerns about the way low-cost houses are being distributed," he said.

Mahlaba also claimed that the same companies were getting contracts and that there was R50000 allocated to youth development and young people's business, but instead the money had been deposited into the personal account of one of the municipal officials.

"We have a situation where you find seven family members and the extended family members of a senior official from the technical services (parks and garden) and finance departments employed without the posts being advertised," he said.

Sanco regional chairperson Mzwakhe Sithebe said three previous marches had not yielded any positive results.

"Corruption continues. It has cost the lives of two senior leaders in the area," he said.

"Grishen Bujram (ANC councillor) and Peter Nxele (IFP councillor) were permanently removed for raising issues of corruption."

Municipal manager David Cebekhulu said the municipality was willing to address the concerns of residents "if they were approached".