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ANC offices and municipal building torched during community protest

An ANC building has been torched following weeks of protest by a Mpumalanga community.
An ANC building has been torched following weeks of protest by a Mpumalanga community.
Image: Mandla Khoza

The community of Barberton in Mpumalanga on Monday set alight the constituency offices and the municipality building during a long-running protest action in the area.

The community members are demanding to be transferred back to their Umjindi local municipality.

Umjindi local municipality and the City of Mbombela were amalgamated towards the 2016 local government elections in an attempt to boost the City of Mbombela’s quest for a metro status.

However, community members of the mining town, which once housed the South African Stock Exchange, have cried foul that since they were placed under the City of Mbombela they were experiencing a lack of service delivery and believe they were being sidelined. 

The protest action resulted in a number of community members being arrested, including two leaders of the protest, a lawyer Mandla Mamba and another community member Shugulugu Mkhonto.

The protest which entered its fourth week on Monday saw the burning of trucks and cars and  looting of foreign nationals’ shops.

Ehlanzeni regional task team official Phazamisa Mathe told Sowetan that they were shocked by the behaviour of the protesters by burning municipal buildings and the ANC offices.

“As the ANC we supports rights to protest in demand of services, but we don’t support thuggery. Burning of infrastructure is a crime that is why we say the police must do their job to people who do that. It’s a pity they burning buildings of the party they claim to be supporting and the government led by the same party.

ANC building was being burnt by community members.
ANC building was being burnt by community members.
Image: Mandla Khoza

"If they had problems  they would have came to the offices of the ANC and place their demands so that we work with them in solving such,” said Mathe. 

Spokesperson of the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, George Mthethwa said they have reported the matter to the police because it’s now a criminal matter. 

“We have now handed the matter to the police because it’s now clear that it is a criminal matter,” said Mthethwa. 

Spokesperson for the department of community safety, security and liaison, Moeti Mmusi said what is happening in Barberton was a crime which hinders other people’s rights.

“As the department we first condemn the burning of buildings, cars and trucks of other people. This is pure criminal and cannot be condoned hence the police have since arrested some people over malicious damage to property charges, arson and public violence.

"This does not only affect other people’s rights but economy of the town is going down because businesses are not operating and some companies might close down, especially those of other community members. So, we are monitoring the situation with the police and those found to be on the wrong side of the law will be arrested,” said Mmusi.