A meeting Sunday morning at the eMbalenhle Stadium about the electricity supply turned violent earlier Sunday afternoon.
Residents left the stadium in an angry mob. They were extremely unhappy about the Eskom power cuts. The residents demanded answers from Govan Mbeki Municipality. They wanted to know why the council did not pay Eskom and what GMM did with the money.
Residents started protesting directly after the meeting. They told the taxi drivers that there will be a stay-away on Monday. Protesters immediately began barricading the roads in eMba.
The protest moved to the Secunda/Standerton intersection where rocks were placed in the road and tyres set alight.
A maroon Toyota Avansa was set alight and the driver and occupant assaulted. They were transported to a nearby hospital. It is alleged that the driver did not respond to the protesters earlier in the day when told to take another route. It is also alleged that the driver hit a pedestrian shortly before being assaulted. He tried to drive away and drove at a high speed over the rocks nearly crashing into the protesters according to a bystander.
“They will force GMM, by all necessary means, to sort out Eskom,” said Phindile Sibande.
eMbalenhle looked like a war zone on Monday morning. Smoke was billowing up everywhere as protesters began burning tyres and other rubble in the roads and barricading the roads with large rocks and road signs.
The protesters threatened to move to Evander and Kinross to burn down the Mayor’s house, but that was averted. No marches towards neighbouring towns took place at the time of writing this article.
Protesters set the municipal offices alight in eMbalenhle Ext 8, 4 and 17. Municipal vehicles has also been set alight. Photos sent by public indicate that a dump truck and several cars were completely burned out.
Some protesters threatened The Bulletin’s reporter when he took photos and videos of the morning’s protests. A small delivery vehicle tried to evade the obstructions in the road and had to drive through the veld to safety as the protesters pelted it with rocks. Most of the protesters were small children that should still be at school.
Taifa Joint that belonged to the previous municipal manager, Mmela Mahlangu, was torched and burned to the ground.
The Bulletin received notice at mid-day from Eskom that Govan Mbeki Municipality have paid the minimum amount required to enable negations to take place. GMM has repeatedly defaulted on previous payment agreements and have even admitted that they lied to Eskom just to buy time.
The Mayor said on Ikwekwezi FM that GMM managed to pay R51M on Monday morning, resulting in the suspension of cut offs.
In response to The Bulletin’s question as to why certain areas are affected and not the whole of GMM, Eskom replied that GMM has separate accounts with Eskom for Evander and Kinross. eMbalenhle, Bethal, Secunda (that supplies Trichardt) and eMzinoni are linked to one account which is in arrears due to the municipality’s failure to pay its accounts. The decision on which account to pay, lies with the municipality and Eskom cannot dictate which accounts should be paid.
“This is a sad lesson the mayor hopefully learned,” says DA Caucus leader, Cllr Encee van Huyssteen. “We have been offering help, giving advice and warned them of this catastrophe, but the ANC chose to disregard all warnings. Now we are in serious trouble financially and no way out. The Mayor keeps on pushing for smart meter for consumers that are paying their accounts instead of addressing the real problems. Smart meters work on airtime according to the Vodacom presentation and we will have to pay that also,” states Encee. “Clearly the lack of commitment from GMM and their inability to resolve the Eskom issue is now starting to become a huge problem for the residents of GMM, putting a lot of lives at risk.”
Several groups have vowed not to stop their actions to get this municipality back on track. It is a pity that some people resorted to violence to try and have their voices heard.
See protesting videos on our Facebook page – The Bulletin