It all started on Tuesday, 3 April, when protestors and members from SACP (South African Communist Party) gathered at the Mandla Magudulela Stadium, in eThandukukhanya, to deliver a memorandum to the Mayor, Honourable Cllr. V.M. Motha, stating their grievances and demanding his feedback.
The Excelsior News spoke to Lieutenant Colonel Blose, from the local SAPS on Monday, 16 April, regarding this riot which has led to thousands of rands worth of damages caused by protestors as well as the arrest of 9 individuals and minor injuries to two individuals.
On Friday, 13 April, the SABC News aired an insert regarding the community unrest and it was mentioned that the community of eThandukukhanya blames the police for the shooting of 29-year old, Mr Sifiso Nkosi. According to Lieutenant Colonel Blose, this is not true and he confirmed that the SAPS is not responsible for the shooting of the victim.
According to him, the Mayor of Mkhondo gave the organisers of the march feedback on all their grievances on Wednesday, 11 April, but they did not relay it correctly to the community members. On Thursday, 12 April, the crowds gathered at the Mandla Magudulela Stadium again, awaiting the Mayor’s presence.
When their organisers informed them of the feedback provided by the Mayor, they were not satisfied and immediately started to cause havoc. Some individuals ran from the stadium enraged and started to block off all entrances to eThandukukhanya, including the R543 (Wakkerstroom Road). All hell broke loose as the rioters started to burn tyres and pack stones in the road as barriers to close them off.
They became violent and did not allow anyone to pass through. Their unruly behaviour continued on Friday, 13 April, as the protestors became violent. They destroyed road signs to use as barricades and even broke the gate of the Mandla Magudulela Stadium to use as an obstruction in the road.
At around 13:00 the protestors had all the entrances to eThandukukhanya closed off and they proceeded to close the N2 (Pongola side, near Harmony Park). They intimidated individuals coming and going to work and in some incidents, even assaulted them, demanding that they do not go to their respective jobs but join them.
The Wakkerstroom Road was open and closed periodically by the SAPS and the rioters demanded that people using the road, need to pay them a fee in order for them to pass through. Two cases of malicious damage to property and assault was opened by locals who were caught off guard.
A local hardware company’s truck was thrown with stones and the windows were smashed while a tow-in company’s driver was severely assaulted and the company’s truck was also damaged. Lieutenant Colonel Blose confirmed that the SAPS officials did use rubber bullets to defuse the crowds and to open the roads for motorists and pedestrians. According to him, two people sustained minor injuries as a result of the SAPS having to use force to defuse the masses of protestors.
Furthermore, he stated that one shop was looted and burned next to Amandlelo School and 9 people were arrested for public violence. The arrestees were to appear in the Piet Retief Magistrate’s Court on Monday, 16 April, and they were remanded in custody. Lieutenant Colonel Blose said that the local SAPS received help from the Public Order Police from Nelspruit as well as Secunda.
They are currently still on standby to assist in Mkhondo, if needed. At the time of publication it was not clear if the unrests were resolved but the SAPS is on high alert and will use re-enforcements where necessary. The Excelsior News will publish feedback on this matter if these violent and criminal riots continue.