Hid­den agen­das

Hous­ing protest ring­leaders linked to more crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity

Talk of the Town - - Front Page - LOUISE CARTER

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

Pic­ture: JON HOUZET

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

Pic­ture: LE­BO­GANG TLOU

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

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