Durban - Forty-one people were arrested for public violence and arson after a community hall in Mandlazini, Richards Bay, was torched on Tuesday, KwaZulu-Natal police said.
“At approximately 3am, at Mandlazini, a group of approximately 300 people blockaded the road in a service delivery protest,” Captain Thulani Zwane said.
People dispersed, returned to the community hall and set it on fire. The 41 arrested were aged between 15 and 63 and would appear in the Richards Bay Magistrate's Court on Thursday. The situation was under control.
“The political party they belong to is unknown at this stage,” Zwane said.
African National Congress KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Sihle Zikalala claimed those arrested were Economic Freedom Fighters members.
“Ten people were arrested while on their way to torch another voting station in KwaMbonambi outside Richards Bay,” he said.
EFF provincial spokesman Phillip Mhlongo directed queries about what happened in Mandlazini to a regional spokesman, who was not immediately available for comment.
Mhlongo said the ANC was doing its utmost to discredit his party.
“All of us are aware and mindful of the fact the EFF has been calling for a peaceful transition of the emancipation of our people,” Mhlongo said.
Zikalala said the EFF had revealed it did not shy away from violence and sabotage in pursuit of its political agenda.
The ruling party called on law enforcement agencies to act swiftly to avert any violence which may threaten citizens exercising their right to vote.
“The ANC considers people's right to choose their government as sacrosanct, inalienable and worth safeguarding at all cost,” Zikalala said.
“The right to vote is the culmination of our people's struggle and it is written in the blood of many heroes of our liberation movement, hence no one can be allowed interfere with this right.”
Mhlongo said the ruling party understood it was on the back foot, trying to pin violence on the EFF and scare voters.
“This is what they are trying to do. I know for a fact that none of our comrades dare threaten ANC members. I speak from my own experience,” Mhlongo said.
“They are aware that Julius Malema and EFF are threatening the entire status quo, where the ANC has been lying to the people of the country. No EFF activist or member can go stone the property of the community.”
He said the ANC was trying to marginalise the EFF.
“They are trying to cover up their own corrupt core,” Mhlongo said.