Housing protest ringleaders linked to more criminal activity
INCRIMINATING information and criminal ties linked to the men leading the New Rest housing protests emerged following the protest last Friday.
At the forefront of the ongoing New Rest housing saga, which has seen four days of burning blockades on the R67 over the last few weeks, are four men – Sibusiso Zweni, twin brothers Themba and Thembekile George, and an unnamed man.
Zweni, who claims he represents those living in shacks and who have been waiting for houses for over 17 years, has been implicated in a theft case documented by the Ndlambe municipality and the fire department.
In April, fire and emergency services manager Mervyn Sauls sent a letter to the directorate of community protection services outlining the incident calling for Zweni’s suspension.
“The staff of the fire service have no trust in these members following their alleged misconduct and do not want them at the fire station,” the letter read.
The letter describes an incident where Zweni and another firefighter on that shift were overheard discussing computer parts and a plot to “take” them from the traffic department.
The next morning, the next shift leader noticed that the door to one of the rooms had been broken into. “The computer tower box is opened up and all major parts is removed from it,” the document stated.
On inquiry, Zweni and his alleged accomplice denied any wrongdoing or knowledge of the incident. The SAPS was called to investigate, and following interrogation, the evidence was recovered in possession of one of the men.
The documents allude to a disciplinary hearing that has taken place.
Since then, Zweni has gained employment with the Ndlambe municipality again at the fire department. According to the SAPS, no charges have been laid by the municipality.
EFF member Xolisa Runeli spoke out against the decision to reinstate Zweni. “How can Ndlambe municipality re-employ known criminals?” he asked.
“This man is using the plight of people to further his agenda, and now he is holding Ndlambe ransom.”
Runeli has laid a charge of contravening chapter 2 of The Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act of 2004 against community protection services director Nombulelo Booysen “for failing to report a crime”.
“You [Zweni] are a firefighter but you are encouraging people to burn. Zweni has divided the community. How can we be led by people involved with serious misconduct?” Runeli asked.
Information regarding brothers Themba and Thembekile George has emerged that paint a grim picture of the New Rest protest ringleaders.
A reliable, unnamed source disclosed that the two are being looked at for involvement in looting of foreign national shops in Grahamstown and incidents involving damage to public property and stirring up protest action in Steynsburg, where they are from.
Allegedly the two have been living in a shack in the New Rest area for the past two years.
“They seem to be troublemakers causing disruption wherever they go. When this is all over, they will quietly disappear again, and let the communities lick their own wounds,” the source said.
Zweni disputed the allegations. “Yes, currently, I’m reinstated following investigations. I didn’t do it,” he said.
Zweni confirmed the planned protest for yesterday (Wednesday), stating that they would sit and wait for the premier to address the community.
“It is easy for them to come to us. These issues are affecting the premier’s own people,” he said.
At a meeting on Monday between the community and Ndlambe council, one of the George brothers, Thembekile, spaid he was prepared for bloodshed if “nobody” came [from human settlements] to address them.
Last Friday, tensions were at an all-time high as the community took to the R67 again, and barricaded the road with burning tyres and bush, bringing traffic between Bathurst and Port Alfred to a standstill.
The Ndlambe fire department arrived and extinguished the fires, which triggered the protesters to sit down, almost all at once.
There they sat throughout the day until dark when they finally left around 6.30pm.
The protest escalated to a criminal level when an opportunist driver coming from Nemato, near the Thornhill entrance, decided to chance it. It is alleged that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and ploughed through the crowd, hitting a protester.
The driver ran from his vehicle before it was torched by enraged protesters, who threw a burning tyre inside. The SAPS confirmed that a case of reckless and negligent driving had been opened against the driver.
Violence escalated further yesterday when live rounds were fired at police, who responded with rubber bullets.
Stones and debris were also thrown at police, and two policemen, Captain Jacques Barkhuizen and Sergeant Nillah Fayyaadh, were injured and taken to Port Alfred Hospital.
Public Order Police arrived and two protesters were arrested. See updates at www.talkofthetown.co.za
HISTORY OF DISRUPTION: Twin brothers Themba George (in red) and Thembekile George (in green), who are at the forefront of the New Rest housing protests, are originally from Steynsburg and allegedly linked to other disruptive criminal activity in cases in Grahamstown and Steynsberg
INNOCENT OR NOT? Sibusiso Zweni was suspended in April from the Ndlambe Fire Department after being implicated in a theft case at the fire station. He was later reinstated and is working for the fire department while leading the protests