Johannesburg - Residents of Bekkersdal, west of Joburg, were forced to take cover on Thursday after the bodyguards of ANC bigwigs fired several shots at them.
Residents were protesting against the presence of the ANC political bosses in their township on Thursday.
The drama unfolded as Gauteng MECs Ntombi Mekgwe and Eric Xayiya, ANC chief whip in the Gauteng legislature Brian Hlongwa and West Rand district municipality mayor Mpho Nawa were due to arrive at the troubled township to conduct a door-to-door campaign ahead of the elections in May.
The residents had received a tip-off about the campaign and barricaded the roads with burning tyres, stones and debris in a protest seemingly directed at Premier Nomvula Mokonyane, who was scheduled to be part of the delegation.
Shortly before members of the ruling party entered the township, a Tactical Response Team (TRT) police vehicle was pelted with stones. The vehicle had to be escorted out of the township.
About three police Nyalas carrying heavily armed officers patrolled the area and fired rubber bullets at residents and pupils.
Schooling was disrupted in the area after pupils were forcefully removed from schools.
Shortly before 11am, chaos broke out when
the VIPs’ bodyguards fired live ammunition at residents pelting the entourage with stones.
They were joined by TRT officers, who discharged rubber bullets at scores of residents.
“We must win this battle,” an ANC member shouted.
“We don’t want Nomvula here. She is not allowed with her people,” another resident shouted.
A man wearing an ANC T-shirt and jacket was forced to take them off.
Township leader Thabang Wesi said residents had resolved to make Bekkersdal a no-go area for
“Even if she becomes the president we don’t want her and her leadership,” said Wesi.
He added that residents were still fuming from Mokonyane’s previous statement that “the ANC does not need the protesters’ dirty votes”.
“Why would they campaign in our area if they do not want our votes? Nomvula should come and humbly apologise,” Wesi said.
Hlongwa said problems in the area needed to be resolved urgently, with all stakeholders playing their role, otherwise anarchy would derail progress in the area.
“There can never be a concept of no-go areas in a democratic society,” Hlongwa said.
“It is unacceptable that schooling should be disrupted at will the way it was done today, and legitimate public representatives be barred from doing their work.”
Police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said six people had been arrested for public violence.