The Star Late Edition
Emalahleni residents in dark for four days intensify protest
A CLOUD of thick black smoke from burning tyres was seen as a group of angry residents in Emalahleni, Mpumalanga, again took to the streets in protest over a lack of electricity supply.
The exasperated community members said they have not had electricity for four days, a violation of their human rights.
The residents made the place a no-go area. There was visible destruction, including streets barricaded with burning tyres, strewn rubble, rocks and tree branches. Infrastructure belonging to the municipality was torched.
Some residents and children were seen loitering on the streets as there was no school or work due to the protest.
Major roads, including the N4, were not spared; motorists travelling between Witbank and Pretoria were advised to exercise caution as the angry residents stepped up their protest in a bid to get the Emalahleni Municipality to act.
Emalahleni is home to several mines, and this closure of the highway is affecting the economy.
By 1pm, the N4 was closed near the KG Mall and police were trying to get the situation under control.
On Wednesday, several cars were reportedly stoned. An SAPS van stationed at KwaGuqa satellite police station was set alight on Tuesday and a private truck was torched on the N4.
The municipality said the electricity problem was due to a faulty transformer that needed to be repaired at a local substation.
A video captured by a CCTV camera went viral on social media showing Emalahleni mayor Conny Nkalitshana being whisked to safety after what looks like an attack by several protesting Vosman community members.
She is seen falling on the ground. Some individuals, believed to be municipal officials, are seen running past her (to get help) while some people are seen kicking and destroying a wire fence to allow her to escape from the mob.
While that was happening, stones were being thrown her way. She was helped up and led to safety.
Moments before this incident, she had a meeting where she addressed community members.
It is reported that what angered them was when Nkalitshana told them it might take a while before the problem is addressed.
Community member Gratitude Moses, in an interview with one of the broadcasters, said the main concern with Witbank was the infrastructure.
“Witbank is growing every day due to the coal business but they don't upgrade infrastructure. We are lacking water supply, we have a problem with transformers that get damaged constantly because of overloading. Instead of the government adding more, they overload the transformers.”
Moses added that there was an area called 14, at the first bond-houses township, which has had no water for 15 years, yet they pay for services.
“The municipality is arrogant and rude. The ANC in Witbank is being voted for by the same residents who do not have access to water and electricity. We have been engaging with councillors even before they were voted for.”
Another community member, Siboniso Magagula, questioned the move by the government in deploying the SANDF to safeguard several Eskom power stations around the country.
“I am of the view that the government deployed the army to safeguard power stations because the power crisis is going to get worse than stage 10.”